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Toxic Firefighting Foam Leads to Lawsuits

Did the manufacturers know the dangers firefighting foam posed to first responders and natural resources?

The release of a group of toxic chemicals called PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are used in firefighting foam, has resulted in separate lawsuits on opposite ends of the U.S.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports a town in Wisconsin named Peshtigo filed a lawsuit against Tyco Fire Products and over 100 other companies involved in manufacturing and designing PFAS compounds because of contamination of drinking water, property and natural resources. 

Also, Fox 8 reported lawsuits filed by North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein that target makers of Aqueous Film Forming Foam and the companies that manufacture AFFF components with PFAS. 3M, Chemours and DuPont were listed.

Peshtigo’s lawsuit claims over 230 of the town’s drinking water wells were contaminated by Tyco and other businesses. Tyco, located in a nearby town, tested firefighting foam with PFAS outdoors from 1962 to 2017. It stopped after finding foam in the soil near the company’s fire training center and a sewer system.

In North Carolina, Stein’s lawsuits center around contamination at Piedmont Triad International (PTI) airport as well as Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River. Stein alleges the companies were aware of the dangers firefighting foam posed to first responders and natural resources.

The issue dates back to 2019 when the city of Greensboro drafted a $31 million mission plan to resolve the issue that began in Greensboro and made its way to Wilmington, nearly 200 miles away.

PFAS, which contain perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), are known for its resistance to water. The firefighting foam is mixed with water and sprayed to extinguish fires. But the chemicals can be ingested through drinking water, and its lasting compounds stay in the environment and body over time.

Health issues connected to PFAS exposure include types of testicular and kidney cancers, altered hormone regulation and harm to the immune and reproductive systems. 

The EPA warns of PFOS concentrations greater than .02 parts per trillion. However, groundwater samples at PTI Airport measured PFOS concentrations up to 8,000 parts per trillion.

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