Facts About AFFF For Your Law Firm Call Center
This article is intended to provide supplemental training material when providing law firm call center services to qualify prospective claimants affected by the AFFF firefighting foam that has been linked to cancer.
Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) was jointly developed in the 1960s by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and the 3M Company as a firefighting foam. However, the toxic chemicals Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the environment, have linked the foam to serious illnesses. Thus, multidistrict litigation ensued because of manufacturers’ failure to warn about these ailments.
Given its widespread use by firefighters for decades, law firm client intake companies may greatly benefit by educating their legal intake specialists on AFFF’s history, environmental impact, and potential health risks associated with PFAS exposure. Experienced legal intake professionals should empathize with claimants who may feel emotional after learning that manufacturers knew about the foam’s association with several health complications, including cancer, for years. It is a tragic situation when those tasked with saving lives were not adequately warned of the risks they faced.
For this reason, it can be helpful for your law firm call center to train agents on the following important facts about AFFF and its associated hazards.
Law Firm Call Center Question #1: What Chemicals are in AFFF Firefighting Foam?
The two most well-known chemicals in Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) are PFOA (perfluorooctade acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid). However, up to nine different fluorinated compounds that originate from the foam can be present in people’s blood. The most commonly cited ones are PFOA and PFOS, both of which are acids.
For ease of communication, legal intake centers may choose to refer to AFFF as containing “fluorinated chemicals,” which are often known as “forever chemicals.” These substances are extremely persistent and can remain in the environment and our bodies indefinitely.
Does Your Law Firm Call Center Know How Does AFFF Causes Harm?
Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) contains chemicals that can accumulate in the human body and persist for long periods of time, even with continued exposure.
Prolonged exposure to these chemicals, especially at high concentrations, has been linked to serious health complications such as certain types of cancer. It is important to acknowledge the potential risks associated with these chemicals and take appropriate measures to protect oneself from exposure.
What Cancers and Other Serious Ailments are Linked to AFFF?
- Kidney cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Lymphoma (including Non-Hodgkin’s)
- Neuroendocrine tumors
- Prostate cancer
- Liver cancer
- Breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer
Additionally, it is possible that compensation may be available for the following ailments if the victim has been diagnosed with the above cancers first:
- Fertility issues
- High blood pressure
- Fetal and child development changes
- Thyroid disease
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Neurological disease
How is AFFF Used and How Does it Work?
Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) is primarily used to extinguish liquid fires, which are notoriously difficult to suppress. These include jet fuel and petroleum fires in locations such as airports, military bases, and ships. Though AFFF is still being used in some places, it is set to be phased out by 2024.
The way AFFF works is by forming a blanket over a fire that suffocates the flames and deprives them of oxygen. Since fire needs oxygen to continue burning, AFFF can quickly extinguish fires.
What Individual Plaintiffs Used AFFF?
U.S. military firefighters, as well as other military members used the foam for over 60 years. In fact, the U.S. Navy required AFFF on all its vessels.
Firefighters assigned to airports used the foam because airports required the foam until 2018.
Firefighters and military used the foam for “occupational use.” Although there are reports of personal use (foam parties at homes, including for children’s birthdays), those may be difficult to prove and not consistent with authorized use.
Who are the Manufacturers and Defendants of AFFF Firefighting Foam?
The defendants in the AFFF lawsuit include several companies that manufactured and sold AFFF containing PFAS chemicals. Some of the largest include:
- Chemours (DuPont spin-off)
- Corteva (DuPont spin-off)
- Other companies are also named as defendants (20-+).
Importantly, local fire departments likely had little to no idea about the potential side effects related to AFFF. Hence, they are not defendants in this multidistrict litigation.
Regrettably, it has been reported that major chemical companies were aware of the risks associated with Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) for many years but did not take any measures to safeguard the public, including the brave firefighters who put their lives on the line to save lives and property.
What are Some of the Damages a Law Firm Call Center May Communicate?
- Pain and suffering
- Medical bills
- Medical monitoring
- Lost wages and loss of future earning capacity
- Loss of consortium or loss of love and affection
- Wrongful death
What is the Significance of Medical Monitoring?
Medical monitoring is a type of claim that is sometimes seen in personal injury cases and multidistrict litigations (MDLs) involving dangerous products. The rationale for this claim is multifaceted. Firstly, it is based on the possibility of delayed onset of symptoms. The health effects of PFAS exposure, including cancer, may take years or even decades to manifest. Therefore, individuals who have been exposed to Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) may not experience symptoms until long after the exposure has occurred.
Secondly, medical monitoring can be costly, and individuals who have been exposed to AFFF foam may not have the financial resources to cover this expense. Additionally, a previously diagnosed cancer may return after going into remission. By including medical monitoring as a potential claim, individuals who have been exposed to AFFF foam can receive the necessary medical care without incurring significant financial burdens.
What is the Connection Between AFFF and Water Contamination Your Law Firm Call Center Should Know?
Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) contains PFAS, a group of toxins that can contaminate soil, groundwater, and surface water.
Areas where firefighting foam has been extensively used, such as airports, military bases, and local fire departments, have shown higher levels of PFAS contamination.
PFAS chemicals are so persistent that they are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals.” There are serious concerns about the toxic levels of PFAS in the environment, everyday products, and even our bodies.
The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has found PFAS chemicals in nearly every blood sample they have taken.
Unfortunately, the widespread contamination of our water sources by dangerous chemicals and known carcinogens is unknown. According to several health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), EPA, ATSDR, and American Cancer Society, PFAS may be linked to cancer in firefighters.
Why Do Attorneys Believe AFFF Settlements Could be Obtained Very Soon?
Settlements for plaintiffs in the Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) multidistrict litigation have been in the works for about five years. Typically, the bellwether test trials, which typically last for a month, usually begin around five years of the start of an MDL.
Recently, 3M and DuPont announced a settlement with drinking water supplier plaintiffs, who are municipalities that provide water to residents. The settlements were reached for about 300 municipalities. These plaintiffs sought compensation for the billions spent cleaning up contaminated water.
There was a bellwether [test] trial scheduled for June 5, 2023, for the first pool of plaintiffs, but this was avoided when 3M and DuPont agreed to combined settlements totaling over $11 billion. The companies did not want a jury verdict because it would have been used in the second pool of plaintiffs, which includes individual AFFF victims like firefighters and shares questions of law and fact.
The recent settlements for municipalities/cities may indicate that a settlement for individual AFFF victims is forthcoming. When settlements are reached in previous mass tort litigations, law firms representing plaintiffs are usually given two weeks to provide a list of their clients pursuing settlements. Law firms often sign an agreement to stop pursuing clients for this matter, prompting many law firms to close their dockets as they have already financed a pool of clients for this case. This is a notable piece of information law firm client intake centers should pass along to prospective claimants because of the urgency they need to understand. Simply put, if they do not act soon, they could be left with less qualified law firms because the top ones will have closed their dockets.
What are the Details of These Recent Settlements for the Pool of Plaintiffs that are Municipalities or Cities?
In July 2023, 3M settled with municipalities for $10.3 billion to resolve PFAS-related claims. The payments will be made over a one-year period, which means the actual payout could be closer to $12.5 billion, as stated in 3M’s SEC filing.
DuPont also settled with municipalities for $1.18 billion to resolve about 300 complaints from drinking water suppliers. This settlement resolves all PFAS-related claims from a defined class of public water systems that serve most of the U.S. population.
As a result, lawyers predict that a global settlement deal will be reached in the AFFF firefighting foam cases for individuals in 2023.
Who are the Claimants? Water Suppliers (Municipalities) vs. Individuals (Firefighters and Military)
For context, both water suppliers and individuals are filing claims in the MDL.
The MDL’s first phase of bellwether trials was set to feature three cases from water providers, with the City of Stuart in Florida being the first. The second phase will focus on three personal injury cases alleging that toxic firefighting foam contaminated drinking water in certain areas.
By July 28, 2023, the parties must select the cases for the second pool of plaintiffs and present a joint list of selected or proposed cases to the court by August 11, 2023. The judge plans to select 28 personal injury claims for the second bellwether pool from plaintiffs who allege exposure to AFFF through contaminated drinking water instead of direct contact.
The cases will consist of eight claims each of kidney cancer, testicular cancer, and thyroid disease, along with four claims of ulcerative colitis. The pool will only include victims alleging exposure to polluted water near Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs Municipal Airport, Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, and the Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster.
What Evidence Exists Suggesting These Chemical Companies Knew About the Health Complications Associated with AFFF?
3M conducted extensive toxicity studies on PFAS, including PFOS and PFOA, as early as the 1950s and concluded that these chemicals were harmful. In 1978, 3M conducted studies on monkeys and rats, subjecting them to varying doses of PFOS and PFOA, which indicated that these chemicals had adverse effects on the liver and gastrointestinal tracts of the tested species.
In 1975, external researchers informed 3M that PFOS could be detected in human blood serum, indicating that it had spread beyond its immediate application site and was bioaccumulating. Research conducted by 3M around its manufacturing plants also revealed that its fluorochemicals were readily bioaccumulated in specific systems of living organisms.
By 1979, 3M knew that fluorochemicals could pose a cancer risk. However, 3M never published its toxicity studies and actively worked to suppress research on the harmful effects of PFAS, including PFOA and PFOS. AFFF lawsuits allege that 3M tried to influence independent academic research to prevent the publication of unfavorable academic literature concerning PFAS, shield 3M from AFFF lawsuits, and prevent the very class action lawsuit we have now. As mentioned in the introduction of this article, when law firm client intake includes this information in their discussions with claimants, agents may hear the emotional impact from victims and would benefit by showing empathy.
In 2018, a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linked PFAS chemicals to cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage, birth defects, and other adverse health effects.
What are Some of the Allegations Against AFFF Manufacturers Your Law Firm Call Center Should Know?
- Failure to warn: Plaintiffs allege that the manufacturers of AFFF foams failed to adequately warn about the potential health risks associated with PFAS. They claim that the manufacturers were aware of the link between PFAS and cancer as early as the 1990s but did not disclose this information.
- Environmental contamination: Lawsuits allege that the manufacturers failed to take adequate steps to prevent environmental contamination caused by AFFF. Plaintiffs claim that the defendants were responsible for designing, manufacturing, marketing, distributing, and/or selling AFFF products that contained PFAS chemicals, which led to contamination of water supplies, groundwater, and local soils.
- Negligence: Plaintiffs argue that the manufacturers were negligent in their production, advertising, and sale of AFFF. They claim that the manufacturers hid the dangerous nature of AFFF from the government and public.
- Personal injury claims: Individual plaintiffs, including firefighters and military personnel, bring personal injury claims against the manufacturers of AFFF foam. These claims allege that exposure to AFFF resulted in various cancers and other health issues, leading to personal injuries, pain, and emotional distress.
What Precautions have Firefighters Pursued to Reduce the Effects of AFFF?
Modern firefighters are subject to strict safety regulations to minimize their exposure to PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals”. These regulations require firefighters to wear protective gear before using fire suppression systems that contain PFAS, shower immediately after suspected exposure, and wipe down their skin to remove any residue.
To further reduce the risk of exposure, many firefighting organizations have started replacing their existing systems with fluorine-free fire suppression options. Despite these efforts, some firefighters still come into contact with PFAS through fire suppression systems. While these chemicals may help fight fires in the short term, they can cause serious harm to the firefighters who use them.
What Proof and Evidence of AFFF Exposure May be Pursued?
There are a number of questions legal intake professionals should consider asking, including:
- Where or how did you face AFFF exposure?
- In what context was the exposure?
- Did the victim work as a firefighter in a local fire department, on a military/Navy base, or in an airport?
Employment records can be a valuable source of evidence to demonstrate that an individual worked as a firefighter. This is especially important for volunteer firefighters, whose volunteer records can also provide insight into when they may have faced exposure to harmful chemicals. After completing the legal intake process, an attorney can help investigate the claim and locate any necessary evidence to support it. For those who worked as firefighters in other settings such as airports or the Navy, relevant employment records can reveal when they were exposed to AFFF and other hazardous substances.
What about the question whether a person faced AFFF exposure due to chemicals in groundwater that you consumed or were exposed to over time? Well, these types of exposure are not the norm for our law firm intake center, but exceptions may apply if direct evidence exists. If a person lived near a military base airport, there may be grounds to show that these chemicals were used regularly around the area. Further research into the local area may reveal when and why a person faced AFFF exposure.
What Items Attorneys May pursue After Your Law Firm Call Center Completes the Intake?
If your law firm call center is pursuing a claim related to AFFF exposure, it’s important to gather and keep several types of records, including:
- Medical records: These will contain information about a claimant’s cancer diagnosis, including when it occurred, the severity of symptoms, and how it has impacted a person’s daily life. They may also include details about any cancer treatments received, such as chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery.
- Medical bills: These will form the basis of a claimant’s AFFF exposure personal injury claim. Be sure to collect all medical bills related to the cancer diagnosis, including bills for tests, follow-up visits with a doctor, cancer treatments, and any procedures performed. Legal intake specialists may also attempt to retrieve bills for any durable medical equipment used while sick or for in-home care if needed.
History of Legal Requirements for AFFF Firefighter Foam Law Firm Call Centers Should Know
Based on the search results, here is what we know about whether AFFF firefighting foam has been required by law:
For over half a century, the Department of Defense (DOD) has mandated the use of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) containing PFAS in firefighting operations. This requirement is based on the DOD Military Specification (MILSPEC), MIL-PRF-24385, which specifies that firefighting foams used in military and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulated airports must contain PFAS.
However, some states and municipalities have implemented bans or restrictions on the use of AFFF due to concerns about PFAS contamination. For instance, California has banned the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foam, while Illinois has restricted its use in training since January 2022.
Law firm call center can pass along favorable news about the progress of these claims and their influence. For example, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 includes provisions to phase out the use of AFFF at all military sites by October 1, 2024.
In summary, although AFFF containing PFAS has been required by law in some situations, there are also bans and restrictions on its use in certain jurisdictions. Additionally, the government has taken steps to phase out its use at military sites in the coming years.
What are other options may replace AFFF Firefighting Foam?
Another bit of positive information legal intake call centers may pass along to claimants is future exposure to PFAS-free firefighter foam currently in production.
- PFAS-Free Firefighting Foams: These foams are being developed and used as safer alternatives to AFFF foam, which contains harmful chemicals.
- GreenFire Firefighting Foam: This foam, which can be found at gogreen.com, is a trusted non-toxic, PFAS-free alternative to AFFF foam that effectively suppresses Class B fires and has passed government testing.
- Class A Firefighting Foams: Class A firefighting foams, which do not contain PFAS chemicals, are used for wild and structural fires. However, in some cases, AFFF foam may be required to extinguish fires involving flammable liquids such as gasoline or oil cans. They can be used in the same applications as AFFF foam with the same equipment.
Allow Your Legal Call Center to Relate to Victims By Understanding How Firefighter Departments are Organized?
AFFF Firefighter Foam has been a staple for local fire departments for many years. To better serve clients in this field, legal intake services should understand the organizational structure of these departments. Typically, they are structured in a hierarchical manner to respond quickly to fire emergencies and provide other related services. Although the specifics can vary depending on the jurisdiction, here is a general overview of the common organizational structure of fire departments:
- Fire Chief: At the top of the organizational hierarchy is the Fire Chief, also known as the Fire Commissioner or Fire Administrator. The Fire Chief is responsible for overseeing the entire department, setting policies, managing resources, and making strategic decisions.
- Deputy/Assistant Chiefs: Deputy Chiefs or Assistant Chiefs typically play a supporting role to the Fire Chief. Responsibilities from these high-ranking officers include dealing with particular divisions, which include operations, administration, training, or fire prevention.
- Fire Captains and Lieutenants: Firefighting individuals at the company or station level may be overseen by Captains and Lieutenants. These officials deal with day-to-day operations, offer instruction to team members, focus on equipment safety, and oversee emergency response.
- Firefighters: At the heart of the firefighting crew are the actual firefighters that are responsible for dealing with rescue of people and property, responding to emergencies, and handling firefighting logistics.
- Specialized Units: Bigger fire departments often have particular units inside their organization to deal with particular responsibilities. These units may include Hazardous Materials (Hazmat) teams, Technical Rescue teams, Wildland Firefighting teams, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) units, and Fire Investigation units. Further training is needed since these specialized units focus on unique emergency incidents.
- Volunteer Firefighters: These firefighters work next to full-time firefighters and receive similar training. The positions they may handle include fighting fires and administrative tasks, which is based upon their background and experience.
Conclusion: Law Firm Call Centers Stand as Critical Bridges Between Claimants and Justice
As the legal landscape surrounding Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) continues to evolve, law firm call centers stand as critical bridges between claimants and justice. This foam has been used by firefighters for decades, but manufacturers knew about its association with several health complications, including cancer, for years. The deep connection between AFFF and severe health complications, including cancer, underscores the urgency for well-informed legal intake specialists. By equipping themselves with comprehensive knowledge about AFFF’s history, environmental implications, and health risks tied to PFAS exposure, these centers become advocates for those affected by the toxic foam.
In the face of a tragic reality where manufacturers were aware of the dangers, legal intake specialists possess the ability to provide empathy and understanding to claimants who may be emotionally impacted. Armed with the facts and insights laid out in this comprehensive resource, law firm call centers are poised to provide invaluable support, guide claimants through the legal process, and pave the way for the pursuit of justice and rightful compensation.