There is an essential concern that demands your attention. Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) may not be a household name, but it’s vital to your safety, and here’s why.
The firefighting foam protects people from the blazing fury of liquid fires. But, beneath its lifesaving potential hides a looming threat that is cancer.
Recent revelations have uncovered an alarming connection between AFFF and cancer. In this article, you’ll explore the science, risks, and actions being taken to address this critical issue.
Understanding Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF)
AFFF is a specially designed firefighting foam used to combat fires caused by flammable liquids like gasoline, oil, and jet fuel. It is a critical tool in controlling fires because it creates a thin, protective layer on the burning surface. This layer effectively smothers the fire by sealing it off from oxygen, which is essential for combustion.
While the foam is undeniably efficient at extinguishing fires, it is also at the center of a growing concern. Recent studies have revealed that it contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These are a group of man-made chemicals that have been associated with adverse health effects, including cancer.
Investigating the AFFF and Cancer Connection
The link between AFFF and cancer has raised serious concerns among researchers and the public. Recent investigations into the health effects of it have revealed a troubling connection.
Thus, the studies have taken a push so that the link between the risk of AFFF foam cancer cases and the chemical can be understood. Such studies have shown that PFAS, which has been associated with various health problems and cancer, is the most evident of them. These chemicals can infiltrate the environment and find their way into your body, potentially causing harm to those exposed to them over time.
According to TorHoerman Law, legal actions are being taken by individuals who believe they have been affected by exposure to the foam. These legal proceedings aim to seek justice for those who may have suffered health consequences due to its use. Also, the settlement received from the lawsuit helps aid that loss caused.
Firefighting Foam and Occupational Exposure
For those who work on the front lines of emergency response, such as firefighters and military personnel, AFFF is a common occupational hazard. These brave individuals rely on the foam to tackle fires involving hazardous flammable liquids. In the process, they may face direct contact with the foam.
This occupational exposure is a matter of serious concern, given its potential health risks. Firefighters, in particular, are exposed to the chemical through inhalation, skin contact, and ingestion during firefighting operations.
Another way by which the firefighters get affected is via the gear they use. A report on the application of PFAS within the firefighter gear was released by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). An in-depth analysis of various textiles utilized for turnout gear, pants, and coats is provided. These are built with an external shell, a thermal barrier, and a moisture barrier as their three layers.
The study revealed significant differences in PFAS content between layers and manufacturers. The top two layers contained the highest levels. Because of this, it can come into contact with the skin, further increasing the risk of exposure. Thus, the study implies choosing the best fabric combinations for every layer. It might substantially decrease the level of the toxic chemicals found in turnout gear.
Legal Actions and Class Action Lawsuits
People who believe they may have been harmed by exposure to the foam have sought justice through the legal system. These individuals often include firefighters, military personnel, and even community members living near affected areas. They have initiated lawsuits against the manufacturers of AFFF products.
They argue that these companies should be held responsible for the alleged health consequences of their products’ use.
Class action lawsuits, in particular, have gained attention. In these cases, multiple individuals who share similar claims join together to form a single lawsuit. This collective legal action enables affected parties to pool their resources, share their experiences, and pursue justice as a unified group.
Health Implications and Medical Research
Studies have revealed that PFAS compounds can accumulate in the human body over time. This accumulation is problematic because these chemicals are persistent.
Health specialists and researchers are particularly concerned about the link between PFAS exposure and increased cancer risk.
A recent EHP research demonstrates a direct link between testicular cancer and PFOS. It’s a PFAS chemical detected in the bloodstreams of thousands of armed forces people. Researchers discovered compelling proof that Air Force veterans who were firefighters had higher levels of this chemical in their bloodstreams. They checked it through the stored blood collected.
They also discovered evidence of people who resided on installations where the drinking water contained high concentrations of it. The serum concentrations of PFOS were higher in the pilots with testicular cancer compared to the airmen without a cancer diagnosis. It shows how the chemical can significantly affect the people using the foam and can cause malignancies.
Environmental Impact and Cleanup Efforts
When AFFF is deployed to combat fires, the PFAS chemicals can seep into the soil and groundwater, causing contamination. This contamination can spread to nearby rivers, lakes, and underground water sources, affecting aquatic life and ecosystems.
Cleaning up this contamination is an immense challenge. Environmental agencies and organizations are working tirelessly to develop strategies for remediation. It involves removing or treating the contaminated soil and water, which can be a complex and costly process.
Colorado Newsline reports that the Pentagon made it clear to stop using PFAS-containing firefighting chemicals as costs for cleanup rise. This decision became effective when the Pentagon discovered over 700 setups where PFAS may have drained into the soil and groundwater. To determine the extent of any potential contamination, they started the testing, which increased the cost to billions of dollars in cleanup.
The Pentagon was ordered to act after Congress approved the connection between the chemical and the diseases. The increasing number of cases and criticism of not taking action was also the reason behind the decision. Still, it’s a positive one going ahead to safeguard lives badly affected by the foam. These initiatives aim to reduce the impact on the environment and, in turn, safeguard ecosystems.
Seeking Solutions and Preventive Measures
One crucial step is to reduce its use by transitioning to alternative firefighting foams that are less harmful. You can lower the potential health risks to firefighters, military personnel, and the communities they serve.
To address the environmental impact, cleansing efforts are essential, requiring resources and innovation to remediate soil and water contaminated with PFAS. Restrictor regulations and guidelines are being proposed to prevent further PFAS contamination and protect the environment.
The journey to uncover the truth and seek solutions is ongoing. It’s not just about understanding the issue; it’s about taking action. With growing awareness and research, changes are on the horizon. Transitioning to safer alternatives, implementing rigorous decontamination procedures, and stricter regulations are steps in the right direction.
Together, through collaboration and determination, you can ensure that firefighting practices not only save lives but also safeguard them.