AFFF Exposure in the Navy

AFFF firefighting foam has been used for decades to put out fires fueled by chemicals like gasoline. New research has shown that prolonged exposure to the chemicals in AFFF can cause cancer, leading to thousands of lawsuits across the country. Anyone who served in the Navy had a high risk of being exposed to AFFF. In this post, we will look at the connection between AFFF and cancer and why men and women and who were in the Navy may have been exposed to AFFF.

About AFFF Firefighting Foam

AFFF (Aqueous Film-Forming Foam) is a type of firefighting foam that is specifically designed to extinguish liquid fuel fires, particularly those involving jet fuels such as JP-5 and JP-8 used in aircraft. AFFF works by forming a film or blanket of foam over the fuel, which suppresses the fire by separating the fuel from oxygen and cooling the fuel surface.

AFFF contains surfactants (surface-active agents) that reduce the surface tension of water, allowing it to spread more easily across the surface of the fuel. It also contains fluorinated compounds, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which contribute to the foam’s ability to form a stable film over the fuel.

While AFFF is highly effective in combating certain types of fires, including those involving flammable liquids, its use has raised concerns due to the presence of PFAS. PFAS compounds are persistent in the environment and have been associated with various health and environmental risks, leading to efforts to phase out the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foams in favor of PFAS-free alternatives.

AFFF Use in the Navy

For over fifty years, the Department of Defense mandated the use of firefighting foam containing PFAS (known as AFFF), resulting in potential PFAS contamination at more than 700 military sites across all 50 states. AFFF was extensively employed on Navy aircraft carriers due to its effectiveness in combating aviation fuel fires and rapid containment of such incidents.

Exposure to PFAS is linked with various health risks, including certain cancers, reproductive and developmental issues, and immune system disorders. In January 2023, the U.S. Department of Defense introduced new regulations governing the use of firefighting foam to extinguish jet fuel fires.

Pursuant to these new regulations, the Department of Defense is now required to cease purchasing PFAS-based foams by October 1, 2023, and discontinue their use entirely by October 1, 2024. The updated standards require suppliers of firefighting foam to confirm that their products do not contain intentionally added PFAS and mandate rigorous testing to ensure the absence of PFAS compounds.

These changes are poised to significantly impact airports. Although many airports already use PFAS-free foam, American civilian airports are obligated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to adhere to the military’s standards.

Congress had previously directed the FAA to permit airports to transition to PFAS-free foams by 2021, yet the agency aligned its regulations with military standards, effectively impeding airports from making the switch. The updated specifications will remove this obstacle.

Cancers Navy Personnel May Develop from AFFF Exposure

Several health organizations have established a connection between certain PFAS chemicals and heightened cancer risk and other health issues among military firefighters. PFAS, also referred to as “forever chemicals,” are a group of substances utilized to impart grease resistance, waterproofing, non-stick properties, and stain resistance to products.


These chemicals are characterized by their persistent nature, remaining in a person’s system long after initial exposure, potentially leading to the development of health complications over time. Below are the cancer-types that have been most strongly linked with exposure to PFAS in AFFF firefighting foam.

Ovarian Cancer: While direct evidence is still emerging, the hormonal disruption caused by PFAS suggests a plausible risk factor for ovarian tissues, which are sensitive to hormonal changes.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: Immune system disturbances linked to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and other lymphomas can be exacerbated by PFAS exposure. PFAS’s immunotoxic effects may contribute to dysfunctions in the lymphatic system, potentially increasing cancer risk.

Prostate Cancer: Studies on prostate cancer have suggested a potential association with PFAS exposure, mainly due to the endocrine-disrupting characteristics of these chemicals. PFAS can mimic or interfere with hormone functions, potentially promoting carcinogenic processes in hormone-sensitive tissues like the prostate.

Kidney Cancer: The accumulation of PFAS in kidney tissues raises concerns due to the kidneys’ role in filtering and eliminating toxins. Research indicates that persistent chemicals like PFAS may burden the kidneys, leading to cellular damage and an increased risk of cancer.

Pancreatic Cancer: Although less directly studied, PFAS’s systemic effects on metabolism and cellular function could influence pancreatic cancer risk, given the pancreas’ role in metabolic and digestive processes.

Liver Cancer: PFAS-induced hepatic stress and damage may elevate liver cancer risks due to the liver’s critical role in detoxification.

Bladder Cancer: PFAS accumulation in urine and prolonged contact with bladder lining cells are concerning factors for bladder cancer, directly affecting bladder cells and potentially increasing cancer risks.

Lymphoma: PFAS’s impact on immune system function could contribute to various types of lymphoma by inducing immune suppression or modification.

Breast Cancer: The potential link between PFAS exposure and breast cancer is troubling due to breast tissue’s susceptibility to hormonal disruptions caused by PFAS, which can mimic estrogen, a known breast cancer risk factor.

Leukemia: PFAS’s influence on immune system and blood cell production processes may increase the risk of leukemia by inducing changes in bone marrow where blood cells are produced.

Testicular Cancer: Strong evidence suggests a link between PFAS exposure and testicular cancer due to the testes’ sensitivity to hormonal disruptions caused by PFAS.

Common Types of AFFF Used in Navy

Aqueous Film-Forming Foams (AFFFs) are typically categorized based on their expansion ratios. Low-expansion AFFFs have ratios of less than 20, allowing them to cover large areas rapidly. Medium-expansion AFFFs have ratios ranging from 20 to 100, while high-expansion AFFFs range from over 200 up to 1000. Class A foams are used for combating wildfires, whereas Class B foams are tailored for fires involving flammable liquids.

Class B foams can be either synthetic or protein-based, and different application methods are employed depending on the foam type used. Examples of common AFFFs used in the Navy include:

– Buckeye 3% Mil Spec AFFF by Buckeye Fire Equipment Company

– ChemGuard AR-AFFF 3% x 6% Foam by Chemguard, Inc.

– FireAid by Fire Service Plus, Inc.

– Light Water AFF by 3M Company

– THUNDERSTORM W833A 3×3 AR-AFFF by Williams Fire & Hazard Control

Companies involved in manufacturing and distributing AFFFs have included:

– 3M Company

– Ansul®

– Chemguard, Inc.

– DuPont

– Dynax Corporation

– National Foam

– Tyco Fire Products

Military firefighters suffering from cancer due to PFAS exposure may pursue an AFFF lawsuit or firefighting foam cancer claim to seek compensation for the various costs associated with their recovery. If you believe you have a claim, it’s crucial to have an experienced attorney from Keefe Law Firm by your side.

Contact Us About AFFF Lawsuits

If you served in the Navy or another branch of the armed forced and think you may have an AFFF lawsuit, call us today at 800*553-8082 or contact us online.

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