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Three plaintiffs recently filed firefighting foam lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. All claim serious injuries after using aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF), which contain toxic chemicals generally known as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

In December 2018, all federally filed firefighting foam lawsuits were consolidated in the District of South Carolina for pretrial proceedings.

Lakewood Water District Blames United States for Groundwater Contamination

The first case, proceeding in the Western District of Washington, was filed on July 16, 2020, by the Lakewood Water District. The district supplies drinking water to about 115,000 customers through an interconnected water supply and distribution system. The water system is maintained and further regulated by the Washington State Department of Health.

The plaintiff names the manufacturers of AFFFs as defendants, as well as the United States of America, the Department of the Air Force, the Department of the Army, and the Department of Defense. According to the complaint, the defendants are responsible for the release of PFAS into the groundwater that supplies the district’s public water supply system.

Not only did the manufacturers develop, sell, and distribute firefighting foams that contained these toxic chemicals, the U.S. and military departments then used these foams at military facilities during training exercises. Specifically, according to the complaint, the U.S. released PFAS through its use of the foams at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Air Force Base (JBLM) near Tacoma, Washington for training events and emergency responses.

The plaintiff adds that studies have connected the United States’ use of the firefighting foams to PFAS groundwater contamination at and in the vicinity of JBLM. “The United States’ failure to properly manage, capture, and contain AFFF used at JBLM has resulted in AFFF releases to the environment, including to soil and surface water and in the vicinity of JBLM and the district’s property,” the complaint reads. “Once released to the environment, the PFAS component of AFFF migrated from AFFF-impacted surface soils to groundwater.”

The district seeks compensatory, consequential, and incidental damages.

Grieving Wife Blames Firefighting Foams for Her Husband’s Death

The second case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. The plaintiff’s spouse was exposed to firefighting foams through his work as a firefighter in Texas. The plaintiff claims that after years of exposure, her husband was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. He had no family history of the disease. The plaintiff passed away on July 18, 2018.

Why he developed this type of cancer remained a mystery to the family until October 2019, when the plaintiff learned about the toxins present in firefighting foams, and that they could cause cancer. She blames the defendants—the manufacturers of firefighting foams—for being aware of the risks associated with firefighting foams and failing to warn users about them. “But instead of informing the selfless public servants,” the complaint reads, “giving them a chance to choose if the risk was worth the use, Defendants simply took that agency away….”

Firefighter Blames Firefighting Foams for Prostate Cancer

The third case was filed on July 29, 2020, also in the District of South Carolina. The plaintiff, a citizen of Mississippi, worked as a firefighter and regularly used firefighting foams in training and to distinguish fuel-based fires. He was later diagnosed with prostate cancer, which he blames on the toxins in the firefighting foams.

The plaintiff claims he was never informed that the firefighting foams could be dangerous, nor was he told about the known health risks that were associated with it. He never received or was told to use protective gear to guard against those risks.

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