Wednesday, February 28, 2024

AFFF Exposure and Cancer Risk: What You Need to Know

The potential health risks associated with Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) exposure, specifically its link to cancer, have raised significant concerns among researchers, public health professionals, and communities.

Mesothelioma Veterans Center mentions that the use of AFFF firefighting foam by the military dates back to the mid-1960s. And though its usage began to decline in the mid-2010s, numerous veterans had already been exposed to potential risks. To curtail its continued use, the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) imposed a restriction on the military, prohibiting the use of AFFF beyond 2024.

Understanding the relationship between AFFF exposure and cancer risk is crucial for individuals who may have been exposed and for the broader public.

This article aims to provide valuable insights into AFFF exposure and its potential cancer risks, shedding light on the scientific evidence, health effects, and environmental implications.

Overview of AFFF

Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) is a specialized firefighting foam widely used to extinguish flammable liquid fires. It consists of a mixture of water, foaming agents, and chemical compounds known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

AFFF forms a thin film on the surface of the fuel, suppressing the fire and preventing re-ignition. Its effectiveness and wide application have made it a go-to solution for firefighting operations, especially those involving flammable liquids like gasoline and jet fuel.

However, growing concerns have emerged regarding the environmental persistence and potential health risks associated with PFAS chemicals found in AFFF.

AFFF and Cancer Link reported that in a study published in the medical journal Occupational Medicine, researchers from the United Kingdom analyzed data from 672 firefighters in Scotland aged between 30 and 74, spanning the years 2000 to 2020. The research revealed that firefighters had a 60% higher overall likelihood of dying from cancer compared to the general population.

Specifically, they were nearly three times more likely to die from malignant neoplasms, almost four times more likely to succumb to prostate cancer, three times more likely to die from myeloid leukemia, and twice as likely to die from cancers of the esophagus, kidney, and bladder.

Scientific studies and research have suggested a potential link between AFFF exposure and an increased risk of cancer, shedding light on the carcinogenicity of the chemicals present in firefighting foam, particularly PFAS.

These studies have indicated associations between AFFF exposure and certain types of cancer, such as kidney, testicular, pancreatic, and bladder cancers. While the exact mechanisms are still being investigated, the presence of PFAS compounds in AFFF has raised concerns regarding their potential to contribute to the development and progression of cancer.

Health Effects of AFFF Exposure

Beyond the potential risk of cancer, exposure to Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) can have additional adverse health effects. One significant concern is the potential for endocrine disruption, where the chemicals in AFFF may interfere with hormonal balance and function. This can lead to various health issues like reproductive disorders, developmental problems, and metabolic disruptions.

Furthermore, AFFF exposure has been associated with immune system effects, potentially compromising the body’s ability to fight off infections and diseases.

AFFF’s  Environmental Impact

As we’ve discussed, AFFF is not biodegradable. AFFF contains PFAS, which can leach into soil and groundwater, ultimately finding its way into rivers, lakes, and other water bodies. This contamination poses a significant threat to aquatic life and ecological balance.

Vox notes that If you have to save a life during a fire, AFFF can be a valuable resource when effective alternatives are not available. However, the extensive usage of AFFF by the military, particularly for training purposes, has resulted in significant contamination of groundwater in numerous communities near military bases.

This issue extends to over 600 identified sites across the country where such contamination has occurred.

PFAS have been linked to adverse effects on wildlife, including developmental issues and reproductive disturbances. Additionally, the potential for bioaccumulation in the food chain raises concerns about human exposure and long-term ecological consequences.

Understanding and addressing the environmental impact of AFFF contamination is essential for preserving ecosystems and safeguarding the health of both wildlife and humans.

AFFF Lawsuit

TorHoerman Law states that in recent years, legal actions related to AFFF exposure and its potential cancer risks have gained momentum. Lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers, government entities, and firefighting agencies seeking accountability for the health impacts caused by AFFF contamination.

The recent AFFF lawsuit update reveals a total of 4,793 filed cases, encompassing personal injury claims and instances of municipal water contamination. Initially, the trial concerning municipal water contamination was scheduled to commence on June 5. However, 3M, one of the defendants, has reached a tentative settlement agreement with the plaintiffs, amounting to $10 billion.

These legal actions aim to raise awareness, secure compensation for affected individuals, and drive changes in regulations and industry practices.

Occupational Safety in AFFF Handling

To minimize AFFF exposure risks for firefighters and first responders, it is crucial to prioritize occupational safety measures. This includes the implementation of proper safety protocols, such as using personal protective equipment (PPE) like respirators, gloves, and protective clothing.

Training programs should emphasize the safe handling and storage of AFFF, as well as appropriate disposal practices to prevent environmental contamination. Regular monitoring and testing of AFFF-exposed personnel can help identify potential health risks early on.

By prioritizing these safety measures, organizations can ensure the well-being of their personnel and minimize the potential adverse effects of AFFF exposure in firefighting and emergency response scenarios.


Awareness of the potential cancer risks associated with AFFF exposure is paramount. The presence of PFAS in AFFF raises concerns about adverse health effects, including an increased risk of cancer.

It is essential to continue supporting research efforts, encouraging responsible regulations, and promoting best practices to address the complex challenge of AFFF exposure and cancer risk. Through collaborative efforts, we can strive for a safer environment and reduce the potential impact of AFFF on public health.

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