Edited By : Amy Edel
This page features 10 Cited Research Articles
Fact Checked

Editors carefully fact-check all Consumer Notice, LLC content for accuracy and quality.

Consumer Notice, LLC has a stringent fact-checking process. It starts with our strict sourcing guidelines.

We only gather information from credible sources. This includes peer-reviewed medical journals, reputable media outlets, government reports, court records and interviews with qualified experts.

Types of Cancers Linked to AFFF

Aqueous film-forming foam is a human-made fire-suppressing chemical. Various storage facilities, food packaging materials, water-resistant clothing, cleaning products and firefighting vehicles and training facilities use AFFF. Studies have linked certain per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances in AFFF to cancer.

AFFF contains the long chain PFAS perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid. PFOS and PFOA form because of the breakdown of other chemicals during the manufacture of AFFF.

Research has linked the following cancers to AFFF exposure:
  • Childhood leukemia
  • Kidney cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Ovarian and endometrial cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Thyroid cancer

People absorb the PFAS that are in AFFF through inhalation or ingestion of contaminated water. PFAS can also be absorbed through the skin. PFAS bioaccumulate or build up in the body. This high level of chemicals increases cancer risk.

Older stocks of AFFF will likely contain PFOS and other long-chain PFAS, but newer versions of AFFF contain short-chain versions of PFAS that manufacturers claim are safer. There are also AFFF products that don’t contain PFAS, but these products contain other chemicals that could also be harmful.

Firefighters Are at High Risk of AFFF-Related Cancer

Firefighters use AFFF for various purposes and have exposure to the foam throughout their careers. The protective gear firefighters wear contains AFFF, and firefighters also use this foam to put out fires from flammable liquids. The PFAS that are in AFFF accumulate in the body, and some studies have shown that firefighters have high amounts of these chemicals in their bodies.

Firefighters inhale PFAS while on duty or absorb the chemicals into the skin from protective clothing. This exposure increases firefighters’ risk of developing thyroid, kidney, bladder, testicular, prostate and colon cancers.

Firefighters have filed multiple AFFF lawsuits against the manufacturers of the foam. The plaintiffs allege the manufacturers of the foam knew the chemicals in AFFF would build up in the body and increase the risk of certain cancers. The courts have consolidated many of these lawsuits into multidistrict litigation, and members are currently participating in settlement negotiations. An exploratory court trial covering cases in Stuart, Florida, was set to begin in late 2023.

three icons representing filing a lawsuit
Did you develop cancer or another serious illness after toxic AFFF exposure?
Get your free case review today.

Military Risks of AFFF-Related Cancer

Military personnel are also at risk of developing certain AFFF cancers. The ignition of jet fuel, gasoline, propane or diesel can cause fires in military equipment and vehicles. For decades, military personnel have used AFFF to put out these fires. Some protective gear also uses AFFF, leading to higher-than-average amounts of PFAS in the bodies of certain military personnel.

The U.S. government ordered the Department of Defense to stop using AFFF in training in 2020, following guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency. Military personnel still use the foam in emergencies, however.

The U.S. Air Force has also spent millions of dollars destroying old AFFF products and replacing them with newer AFFF products. These newer firefighting foams contain slightly different PFAS that leave the body faster than what was originally in AFFF products, but the chemicals still accumulate in the body and can cause the same health risks.

While the military is shifting away from AFFFs containing PFAS, many individuals with past exposure have filed lawsuits. Plaintiffs claim past exposure caused illnesses, including cancer. Settlement negotiations are underway, but if these aren’t successful, many claims could go to court for separate jury trials.

Environmental AFFF Exposure and Cancer

The PFAS chemicals in AFFF accumulate in the environment and can cause significant environmental contamination, including water contamination. There are many types of PFAS and the half lives vary greatly, but PFAS can potentially remain in soil for thousands of years. The degradation time in water is faster and estimated to be around 40 years. Multiple species in the food chain can absorb the substances from their environment. Humans who eat these species absorb more PFAS and can even excrete the chemicals in breast milk.

Contaminated water from AFFF use at military camps and training facilities, airports and other locations has cost the U.S. government billions of dollars in water treatment campaigns. Water contamination is a serious environmental concern because small amounts of PFAS in water can accumulate in the body, leading to an increased risk of cancer and other illnesses.

In 2018, water near an Air Force base in Delaware contained over 2,000 times more PFAS than the EPA’s health guidelines recommend for safe drinking water. Residents of Hoosick Falls, New York, have filed a lawsuit against manufacturers of AFFF, claiming that their factories contaminated the town’s drinking water supply with PFAS. The parties settled the class-action lawsuit for more than $60 million.

What to Do if You’ve Been Exposed to AFFF

AFFF manufacture and use releases PFAS into the air and can contaminate soil and water. Research indicates strong links between PFAS and various cancers, hormone and immune system imbalances and other disorders. After exposure to PFAS because of your occupation or through environmental contamination, ask your doctor if they recommend screening for cancer or other AFFF-related complications. If a doctor diagnoses you with an AFFF-related cancer, a cancer specialist can suggest the best course of treatment.

Many individuals have pursued legal action against the companies who manufacture AFFF and other PFAS-containing products. You may be able to get compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning potential and pain and suffering if you have a diagnosed health condition from exposure to AFFF. An attorney with experience handling AFFF lawsuits may be able to evaluate your case for free and help you build your claim.

Please seek the advice of a qualified professional before making decisions about your health or finances.
Last Modified: August 18, 2023

10 Cited Research Articles

Consumernotice.org adheres to the highest ethical standards for content production and references only credible sources of information, including government reports, interviews with experts, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, peer-reviewed journals, court records and academic organizations. You can learn more about our dedication to relevance, accuracy and transparency by reading our editorial policy.

  1. Holden, L.A. et al. (2023, February 23). Toxicology assessment for six per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS)-free aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) products. Retrieved from https://setac.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ieam.4750
  2. Jackson, I. (2022, November 1). Mediator Appointed To Facilitate Firefighting Foam Settlement Discussions in MDL. Retrieved from https://www.aboutlawsuits.com/firefighter-foam-settlement-discussions-mediator/
  3. Wallender, A. (2022, May 23). Companies Face Billions in Damages as PFAS Lawsuits Flood Courts. Retrieved from https://news.bloomberglaw.com/environment-and-energy/companies-face-billions-in-damages-as-pfas-lawsuits-flood-courts?context=article-related
  4. Rizzuto, P. & Wallender, A. (2022, February 16). Firefighters File Multiple Lawsuits Over PFAS in Gear, Foam (1). Retrieved from https://news.bloomberglaw.com/environment-and-energy/firefighters-file-multiple-lawsuits-over-pfas-in-gear-foam
  5. Jackson, I. (2021, September 13). Navy Veteran Claims Firefighter Foam Exposure Led to Testicular Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.aboutlawsuits.com/navy-firefighter-foam-cancer-lawsuit-188369/
  6. Malo, S. (2021, July 23). 3M, others reach $65 mln deal with NY town over PFOA in drinking water. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/legal/litigation/3m-others-reach-65-mln-deal-with-ny-town-over-pfoa-drinking-water-2021-07-22/
  7. U.S. Fire Administration. (2020, February 11). The Hidden Dangers in Firefighting Foam. Retrieved from https://www.usfa.fema.gov/blog/cb-021120.html
  8. Lerner, S. (2018, February 10). The U.S. Military is Spending Millions to Replace Toxic Firefighting Foam with Toxic Firefighting Foam. Retrieved from https://theintercept.com/2018/02/10/firefighting-foam-afff-pfos-pfoa-epa/
  9. Alaska Department of Environmental Contamination. (n.d.). Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF). Retrieved from https://dec.alaska.gov/spar/csp/pfas/firefighting-foam/
  10. National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). PFAS Exposure and Risk of Cancer. Retrieved from https://dceg.cancer.gov/research/what-we-study/pfas