Hundreds of people who worked or served on various military bases recently brought a mass tort lawsuit against six manufacturers of firefighting foams, which were used for fire suppression and which are now believed to have contaminated local drinking water via ingredients such as perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), unregulated chemicals which are toxic groundwater contaminants.
The foams are believed to have been used at various military bases for decades, resulting in injuries and diseases to those who worked and were based there. They have also been the subject of several class action lawsuits brought due to the contamination released by the military and foam manufacturers.
History and Health Concerns of Firefighting Foams
Although water is sometimes used for suppressing fires, firefighting foams were developed in order to address contexts in which water was ineffective, such as in the case of oil fires. In the 1960s, companies started developing foams that included fluorinated surfactants due to their longer blanket life compared to protein-based foams. The US Navy followed in developing its own version.
Studies have shown that PFOS is a toxic, persistent, bioaccumulative pollutant. As a result, foam-producing companies such as 3M started phasing out their production, but not until 2002, after the products had been used for more than 40 years. One recent study from 2015 demonstrated that firefighters in particular were more likely to have fluorinated surfactants in their bloodstream. Last year, the US Air Force paid over $4 million for a water treatment system for the residents who lived downstream of the Peterson Air Force Base as a result.
The most recent class action lawsuit filed is associated with the more than 20 public drinking water wells and 200 private wells in various counties near where these military bases are located which have been shut down due to contamination by these unregulated chemicals. The contaminated drinking water is suspected to be linked to the use of firefighting foams used at the bases back in the early 1970s.
Claims and Remedies
Several of the lawsuits claim that the manufacturers knew that the products were defective and knew about the dangers they posed to people, but still failed to notify the public, in spite of how toxic they were. In some instances, instead of monetary damages, the plaintiffs are instead requesting remedies to help fix the problem, such as having defendants provide for blood-testing programs, health studies, medical monitoring, a private well-testing program, and cleaning up properties and/or water supplies.
Personal Injury Attorneys Addressing Environmental Hazards
Companies and even governmental players will often violate state and federal laws, relying on unregulated chemicals that pose harm to nearby communities. We have been litigating against these parties for years. If you have suffered due to a toxic contaminant, contact us today for a free consultation. We are here to help.