How Firefighters Exposed to AFFF Can Proceed for Legal Actions

In the relentless battle against fire, firefighters rely on many tools and techniques to protect lives and property. Among these tools is aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), a firefighting solution that effectively combats flammable liquid fires. However, recent revelations have shed light on the potential health hazards of AFFF, particularly concerning per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

In light of these concerns, firefighters exposed to AFFF are increasingly exploring legal avenues to seek compensation and justice. This page seeks to give complete guidance for firefighters dealing with the complexity of bringing AFFF claims.

AFFF and its Risks

AFFF has been a staple in firefighting since the 1960s due to its effectiveness in suppressing flammable liquid fires. Its formulation usually contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), such as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

These chemicals create a film that separates the fuel from oxygen, extinguishing the fire. However, the extensive usage of PFAS has contaminated water supplies and caused health problems.

PFAS are persistent in the environment and the human body, accumulating over time. As mentioned in a ScienceDirect study, firefighters are exposed to these PFAS chemicals via AFFF. Therefore, they face an occupational hazard that puts them at a higher risk of developing cancers like testicular, thyroid, kidney, etc.

According to TruLaw, studies have linked PFAS exposure to other health problems, too, like reproductive issues, immune system dysfunction, and developmental delays. For example, another ScienceDirect study analyzes the impact of PFAS exposure on female fertility rate. The fertility rate was found to reduce by 5–10% with a quartile increase in PFAS exposure.

Most firefighters didn’t know about the potential health hazards of these chemicals effective at fire suppression. Therefore, those who are diagnosed are seeking legal action against manufacturers who keep this information from them. An increasing number of AFFF lawsuits are filed monthly, alleging that it was the manufacturer’s duty to warn them.

Steps to Proceed With an AFFF Lawsuit

Proceeding with a lawsuit involving Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) typically involves several steps. If you’re considering pursuing legal action related to AFFF exposure, here are the general steps you might take:

Identifying Potential Defendants

Identifying the parties responsible for the contamination before initiating an AFFF lawsuit. Potential defendants may include AFFF manufacturers, firefighting agencies, military installations, airports, and industrial facilities where AFFF was routinely used. Determining culpability necessitates extensive study and legal skills to determine the various businesses’ responsibilities in making, distributing, and using AFFF.

Seeking Legal Counsel

Navigating the complexities of AFFF lawsuits necessitates expert legal guidance. Engaging an attorney with experience in environmental litigation and toxic torts ensures your case is meticulously evaluated and effectively pursued. Legal counsel can give vital information about the legal framework governing AFFF claims. They can advise you on the feasibility of your case and the best line of action for increasing your prospects of receiving compensation.

Documenting Damages and Impacts

Gathering comprehensive documentation of damages and impacts attributable to AFFF contamination is paramount in substantiating your claims. Firefighters and their lawyers can collect evidence, such as medical expenses, work contracts showing exposure, lost wages, etc.

Since many studies have proven the link between AFFF and health problems, building the case will be a little easier. For instance, a PubMed meta-analysis of fifteen studies shows an association between PFAS exposure and kidney and testicular cancer. However, no association with liver damage was found in this study.

Thorough documentation strengthens your case, substantiates the extent of harm suffered, and facilitates the calculation of damages sought in the lawsuit.

Initiating Legal Proceedings

Once armed with compelling evidence and legal representation, initiating legal proceedings is the next step toward seeking redress for AFFF-related harms. Depending on your case’s circumstances, your attorney may opt for individual or multidistrict litigation (MDL) to consolidate similar claims.

Most AFFF cases are being consolidated into MDL, so in this case, firefighters can file their lawsuits as a part of it. Approximately 8,061 cases are still ongoing in this MDL, according to data from Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) reports. The number of cases is expected to increase as more and more firefighters become aware of their problems and seek legal procedures.

Navigating Discovery and Pretrial Proceedings

Following the commencement of legal action, the discovery phase ensues, during which both parties exchange information, evidence, and witness testimonies.


Discovery allows for a comprehensive exploration of the facts and issues, enabling informed negotiations or trial preparation. Pretrial proceedings, including motions, hearings, and settlement conferences, may also occur, offering opportunities to resolve the dispute outside the court.

Evaluating Settlement Options

Settlement negotiations may arise throughout the litigation process, offering an alternative avenue for resolving the dispute without proceeding to trial. Settlements allow parties to reach mutually acceptable terms, avoiding the uncertainties, costs, and time associated with protracted litigation. However, settlement offers must be carefully evaluated with your attorney to ensure they adequately compensate for damages and provide sufficient remediation measures.

Regulatory Response

Regulatory bodies are attempting to address the issue in light of mounting concerns about the environmental and health consequences of AFFF pollution. While regulatory efforts vary by jurisdiction, several key measures have been implemented to regulate the use, disposal, and cleanup of AFFF-containing PFAS:

  • EPA regulations: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established regulatory guidelines for PFAS compounds, including those found in AFFF. The EPA has issued health advisories for specific PFAS compounds, set groundwater cleanup standards, and initiated research and monitoring programs.
  • State legislation: Many states have adopted measures to combat PFAS pollution and safeguard human health. Some states prohibit or limit the use of AFFF containing certain PFAS chemicals. In contrast, others have implemented monitoring and testing programs to identify and mitigate PFAS contamination in water supplies and affected communities.
  • Military response: The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has addressed AFFF contamination at military installations and facilities where AFFF has been used extensively for firefighting. The DoD has implemented measures to phase out the use of AFFF and has allocated resources to clean up contaminated sites.

There has been considerable pressure on regulatory agencies and the military to ban the use of PFAS. However, a Public Health Watch article mentions that AFFF has not yet been phased out despite the pressure. Lobbyists working for the powerful chemical industry giants influence policymakers to continue its use.

These professionals are making policymakers believe that no safe alternatives can be as effective as AFFF. This marks a growing need for finding equally effective fire suppressants that are not as harmful to the environment and human health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Can Apply For An Afff Lawsuit?

Anyone harmed by exposure to Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) may file a lawsuit. This includes those who work in the military, are firemen and live close to locations where AFFF was deployed. The qualifying requirements may change depending on the case’s particulars, such as the level of exposure and any ensuing health problems.

Is Afff A Regulated Substance?

AFFF is indeed a controlled material. Several regulatory authorities and environmental agencies regulate it because of its possible environmental and human health effects.


Strict guidelines govern the use, handling, and disposal of AFFF to lessen its harmful impact on ecosystems and human health.

Is There A Replacement For Afff?

Researchers and producers have been looking at alternatives in response to worries about the effects of AFFF. Several businesses have created alternative firefighting foams to be less damaging to human health and the environment. Testing and assessment are ongoing to guarantee these alternatives’ effectiveness and safety in firefighting applications.

What Does 3% Afff Mean?

The concentration of the active components in the foam solution is denoted by “3% AFFF.” This specific statement states that 3% of the active firefighting agents—typically fluorinated surfactants—are present in the AFFF solution. When combating fires involving flammable liquids, this concentration is commonly used to successfully suppress and extinguish the fire.

Finally, firefighters who are exposed to AFFF suffer serious health hazards, including cancer, reproductive difficulties, and immune system malfunction. Understanding their legal alternatives is critical for pursuing compensation and keeping guilty parties accountable.

By raising awareness of AFFF contamination and advocating for change, firefighters can protect themselves and future generations from occupational hazards.