Fighting Toxicity: The AFFF Legal Landscape And Settlement Amounts

AFFF Legal Landscape

Published on March 13th, 2024

The US military developed aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) in the 1960s. It turned out to be so potent, that, in no time, it was dousing fires at airports and industries. However, its use brought widespread mayhem.

These firefighting foams contained perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are potent carcinogens.

Substantial research indicates a connection between exposure to AFFF and various serious health conditions.

Several lawsuits are still being filed by the affected veterans against the AFFF manufacturing companies.

In this blog post, we will discuss the latest advancements in these legal proceedings.

An Overview Of AFFF-Related Concerns

Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) contains PFAS chemicals that enable it to spread across the fuel source. The chemicals present in it separate the fuel from the air, thereby dousing the flames.

While they are very effective in firefighting, PFAS compounds resist degradation, posing environmental and health risks.

PFAS contamination has been detected in soil, groundwater, and drinking water, especially near military bases where AFFF was used.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found PFAS in the blood of 97% of Americans, raising concerns about its health impacts.

According to TruLaw, these include various cancers, severe damage to the liver, persistent fertility issues, and autoimmune disorders.

Firefighters and military personnel who have been exposed are at higher risk of developing chronic health problems.

Even though the use of PFAS was banned a few decades ago, its effect on the products we consume still lingers.

What Does The Legal Ground Look Like?

The AFFF lawsuit aims to provide compensation to individuals affected by exposure to firefighting foam.

This legal stance holds manufacturers of firefighting foam accountable for injuries and health issues resulting from exposure.

Notably, multidistrict litigation (MDL) was initiated to represent victims exposed to firefighting foam.

In February 2024, a Nevada man filed a lawsuit that was consolidated into the Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) case.

He was a certified firefighter from 1992 to 1997 and was exposed to AFFF. In 2021, he learned about his bladder cancer, allegedly linked to the exposure.

As of March 2024, the MDL has over 7,000 pending cases. These lawsuits target 25 different companies, including major players like 3M, DuPont, and Tyco Fire Products.

Some Recent Settlement Cases

In 2023, lawsuits against prominent chemical companies resulted in settlements totaling more than $11 billion.

Below is a list of some settlements reached with firms that have been accused of environmental pollution from PFAS:

  • The Minnesota government mandated that 3M provide a payment of over $800 million owing to their involvement in environmental damage caused by PFAS.
  • In one instance, DuPont, Chemours, and Corteva agreed to pay $4 billion to address numerous cases alleging the toxicity of PFAS.
  • A $671 million settlement was negotiated between DuPont and the adjacent West Virginia facility on account of chemical contamination.

What Does 2024 Look Like?

Legal experts anticipate a surge in PFAS-related lawsuits beyond the MDL in 2024. These cases are touted to extend to consumer brands and more personal injury claims.

Within the MDL, there is a bellwether trial scheduled for August. It focuses on holding companies accountable for PFAS-related cleanup costs.

Cases beyond South Carolina, such as those involving PFAS contamination in North Carolina’s Cape Fear River and Maine groundwater wells, may proceed to trial.

Expectations are high for further settlements between chemical firms and state attorneys general regarding toxic chemical damage to rivers and wildlife.

What Are Your Options?

In the aftermath of AFFF lawsuits, minimizing PFAS exposure has become a pressing concern.

If you have been affected by PFAS-laden foam or toxic water, then hiring a lawyer should be the highest priority. They will guide you through the intricate legal process and advocate for your settlement.

Support groups can be very helpful for you. Acknowledging the common obstacles presented by AFFF exposure, the group exchanges insights, tools, and mutual encouragement.

Additionally, you have the option to join organizations like the FEMA Firefighter Cancer Support Network.

It offers resources, prevention and diagnosis guidance, and peer support to address stigma and provide assistance.

However, you need to exercise personal safety every minute. One of the most effective steps is to stay informed about ongoing PFAS regulations and rules.

Add to that, a gradual shift to safer, non-PFAS daily life products. For example, you can replace your non-stick cookware with stainless steel or cast-iron alternatives. Your old food packaging can make way for bamboo or paper items.

In conclusion, AFFF lawsuits reflect the power and resilience of the community. Not everyone will win, and not every culprit will get convicted. However, this fight against negligent corporations lights a ray of hope for a safer future.

With more and more establishments facing the heat, the next few years look bright.

Feature Image Source: Arny Mogensen