Fire fighting is a hazardous job and these are the people who actually risk their own lives to save others in dangerous situations. Certainly, their lives need to be valued all the more. So it becomes important to recognize and minimize the hazards they face every day in the course of their duty. Surprisingly, these hazards are not only limited to the dangerous situations they encounter as a part of the job. There are also risks related to the use of firefighting foam, which actually helps them douse fires and save lives. Recent studies have indicated that the foam’s chemical contents increase the risk for cancers with prolonged exposure. Here are the hidden hazards of fire fighting foam explained.
The culprit within
It is hard to believe that something as harmless (and in fact, life-saving) as firefighting foam can have such drastic health implications. But the truth is that the culprit lies within and attacks in the most subtle and unexpected way. The risk comes from chemicals called perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which are present in high concentrations in the aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) that extinguishes fires caused by petrochemical compounds. These chemicals are extremely stable, which keeps them unaffected even when in contact with burning materials. However, the stability itself makes them dangerous as they do not degrade over time. Rather, they are absorbed into the human body and act as toxins that can eventually cause different types of cancers.
The firefighters’ risk
Firefighters across the country have been using the AFFF type foam material for decades. This translates into a major risk- in fact, there could be thousands of firefighters, on duty or retired, who may have already developed or will develop cancer due to prolonged exposure to PFAS chemicals. Considering the fact that foam manufacturers may have been aware of the potential carcinogenic nature of these chemicals, these firefighters are entitled to compensation. Filing an AFF lawsuit makes sense if you have developed cancer and you think that it is due to exposure to these hazardous chemicals. A firefighting foam attorney can prove the manufacturer’s negligence in the court and help you get the compensation you deserve.
Illnesses associated with AFF chemicals
Scientific studies have established increased risks of different types of cancers due to exposure to fire fighting foam. These include prostate cancer, testicular cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, ovarian cancer, leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myelomas. Apart from cancer, exposure is linked with liver effects, thyroid effects, reduced immunity, cholesterol changes, skeletal variations and low birth weight. While firefighting professionals are at obvious risk, the danger also runs high for people living near airports, military centers, major industrial locations and local fire depots. Since chemicals in firefighting foam can persist for years after its use at a specific location, there is a major risk of the PFAS chemicals reaching the ground water sources and contaminating drinking water supplies in these areas.
Considering these risks, awareness can make all the difference for firefighters and people residing in high-risk areas. The idea is to know your rights and claim them if you have suffered due to exposure to hazardous chemicals.