Healthy Living

From Testicular Cancer to Thyroid Dysfunction: The Devastating Health Effects of AFFF Foam

Dealing with a fire can be one of the scariest experiences that people can face in life. We often tend to underestimate just difficult it is to control fires and forget that there are a variety of different situations where putting out a fire needs specific extinguishing methods.

Firefighters, safety officers, and construction and industrial workers often have to study the different classes of fires, such as Class A to Class D and Class K. While this information is important to know, there is a darker side to fire extinguishers that a lot of people are not aware of.

It isn’t just fire that can be dangerous. Certain fire extinguishers contain ingredients that are extremely dangerous to your health if you are exposed to them. In this article, we are going to look at these dangers and learn how to keep safe when utilizing such fire extinguishers.

PFAS: The Harmful Forever Chemical in AFFF Fire Extinguishers

While a lot of the ingredients used in different fire extinguishers are safe, there is one particular ingredient that is known to be particularly harmful to health. This ingredient resides in extinguishers that rely on aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) and is called Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 

These PFAS are a type of forever chemical that remains in the environment for long periods of time and are not susceptible to the usual degradation that occurs with other ingredients.

According to a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), forever chemicals have contaminated close to three thousand locations in all fifty states of the U.S.

The effects that they can have on health when people are exposed to them can be severe. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to several types of cancers, including kidney, pancreatic, and testicular cancer. 

It can cause issues with fertility in women, low birth weight in infants, and developmental delays in children. PFAS are also known to affect the immune system and cause thyroid-related issues such as fatigue, weight gain, and other forms of thyroid dysfunction.

Hormonal changes such as a decrease in testosterone levels in men and increased cholesterol levels have also been linked to PFAS exposure.

As you can imagine, there have been many individuals who have suffered such side effects and have gone on to file suits through law firms like TorHoerman Law, LLC.

Tor Hoerman Law, LLC has fought cases where large companies and industries accountable were held accountable and has filed cases regarding the side effects of Tylenol, Tepezza, and Elmiron, to name a few.

AFFF lawsuit settlement amounts can be considerable, with figures reaching as high as $300,000, and in special cases, the figure can go even higher. Back in 2020, the company DuPont was ordered to pay a sum of $50 million to a victim of testicular cancer caused by PFAS chemicals in drinking water.

Avoiding Harmful Effects of PFAS in AFFF Extinguishers

Considering how severe these side effects are, it becomes important to understand how exactly exposure can occur. You can be in danger from PFAs if the chemicals have contaminated either food or water in case AFFF foam has been used in firefighting close by.

Of course, using AFFF foam-based extinguishers directly puts you at risk especially, if the wind or other elements makes it easy to inhale the fumes or cause skin contact.

Wherever possible, it is best to try and limit your exposure to areas where FAAA foam has been used. However, there are some situations where it cannot be avoided.

Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) when dealing with AFFF firefighting foam, along with thoroughly washing with soap and water after use, can go a long way in lowering the risks.

You can also consider using PFAS-free alternatives, such as fire extinguishers that use dry chemical agents instead of foam. Fluorine-Free foam is also a better option if a foam-based extinguisher is a priority.

Conclusion

AFFF foam is often used because of its effectiveness in dealing with fires and because of its ability to create a film on the surface of the fuel, which helps prevent re-ignition. It also has a relatively long shelf life and can be stored for years without degrading.

As a result, these types of fire extinguishers are often used even though there may be cheaper and safer alternatives on the market. Sadly, its effects on health are severe, and even with preventive measures like wearing PPE, it can still be dangerous as witnessed by the extent that firefighters are affected by PFAS chemicals.

It is crucial that firefighters and those that are most at risk of the side effects push for research on the adoption of safer alternatives as soon as possible.

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