Firefighter Foam and Bladder Cancer: Is there a connection?

More than 82,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer nationwide annually. A few risk factors that contribute to this ailment are age, smoking, and genetics. But the military firefighters who use AFFF, a fire suppressant, are at an increased risk of developing bladder cancer because of toxic chemicals the product contains–that is PFAS (per and polyfluorinated substances).

Medical studies suggest that PFAS exposure can change the cells in your bladder tissue, resulting in bladder cancer. It is the fourth most common cancer prevalent in military and civilian firefighters exposed to AFFF foam.

The International Association of Fire Fighters in July 2022 mentioned an article by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer). Here, authors re-assessed the classified firefighter occupational exposure as a group 1 carcinogen, showing ample evidence for different types of cancer in humans.

This classification highlights a visible shift in IARC’s perspective on firefighter occupational cancer. Several first responders and firefighters have witnessed prolonged exposure to various environmental pollutants and chemicals, such as PFAS, which can increase the risk of bladder cancer. In this article, we will discuss how bladder cancer because of AFFF exposure affected people, its symptoms, and the legal way out.

The AFFF Aftermath: Lon Holliday Suffered from Bladder Cancer a few years ago shared the story of Lon Holliday, a California man, and his experience with AFFF exposure. He filed a product liability lawsuit, stating this toxic foam was the root cause of his getting diagnosed with bladder cancer. Holliday further asserted that firefighter foam manufacturers sold harmful products and didn’t warn firefighters and others about their hazardous side effects.

In his lawsuit, Holliday has mentioned names like Du Pont De Nemours Inc., 3M Company, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, National Foam Inc., Tyco Fire Products, and many other defendants for their negligence. 

He said that since he was exposed to this harmful foam daily; he developed bladder cancer. Had the manufacturers informed people about the foam’s side effects, firefighters could have monitored its use accordingly. That could have saved many from developing this chronic ailment.

Holliday is one of the several plaintiffs who have suffered immensely from AFFF exposure and filed a lawsuit to claim the compensation they deserve to cover the damages. 

According to the March 2024 AFFF lawsuit update, there needs to be attention given to turnout gear PFAS claims. Additionally, last month, close to 176 new cases were added to the MDL, which makes the overall count exceed 7,000.

Understanding Bladder Cancer and Its Symptoms

Typically, bladder cancer starts in the urothelial cells that create a lining inside your bladder. These cells are present in the kidneys and the tubes that connect the kidney to your bladder. A person can get diagnosed with urothelial cancer in the ureters and kidneys, but the bladder is the most common organ that gets affected.

Most bladder cancers get diagnosed during the initial stages, when treating this disease is possible. However, even when it gets treated successfully, there is a chance of the cancer surfacing.

A few symptoms of bladder cancer include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Blood in urine
  • Back pain
  • Painful urination

It is necessary for firefighters to be watchful of these symptoms. A medical diagnosis is crucial for establishing the link between bladder cancer and AFFF exposure.

How To Seek Legal Help?

Manufacturing and using AFFF releases PFAS into the air, which pollutes the water and soil. Research suggests a potent link between PFAS and multiple cancers and imbalances in the immune system and hormones. If your occupation exposes you to this toxic foam and you notice signs of bladder cancer or any other physical discomfort, check with a doctor if they suggest a cancer screening. You can also check if they suspect any other AFFF-linked complications.

If you get diagnosed with bladder cancer, you need to start your treatment immediately. It is necessary to keep your medical records and healthcare data intact and get in touch with a lawyer so that you get financial compensation to pay for your medical costs and other losses.

TruLaw states that you can also use the compensation amount to cover the lost earning potential, as well as any other pain and suffering that you have endured. An expert lawyer will evaluate your case details, use the necessary evidence to build your claim, and ensure that you receive fair compensation without any delay.

In conclusion, the health hazards related to AFFF exposure have been coming to light for a while now. Hence, if you have suffered because of inhaling this foam daily as an occupational hazard, you need to keep a close watch on your health and any wayward symptoms that you might face. If you notice signs of bladder cancer, get yourself checked by a doctor to know whether AFFF exposure caused it. After that, you should seek both medical and legal aid.