Suit Alleges AFFF Polluted Groundwater Causing Testicular Cancer

A man who grew up near a military base in Pennsylvania has filed suit against the nation’s largest firefighting foam manufacturers claiming he developed testicular cancer as a result of drinking  groundwater contaminated by toxic components of AFFF.

Robert Fulforth and his wife, Lindsay Howard, filed suit earlier this month in US District Court for the District of South Carolina against 3M Company, Angus Fire, Ansul, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, Chemguard, Inc., National Foam, Inc., DuPont Chemical Solutions Enterprise, DU Pont de NEMOURS and Co., THE CHEMOURS COMPANY, LLC, and CHEMOURS COMPANY FC, LLC.

The suit alleges Fulforth, 27, drank water contaminated by AFFF used for training and emergencies at the Willow Grove Joint Naval Air Station in Horsham, Pennsylvania.

According to the complaint:

  • While residing in Horsham PA … from birth until he was in his twenties, Plaintiff Robert Fulforth drank and was exposed to water contaminated with PFOA, PFOS and other PFAS ingredients coming from Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFF) used at Willow Grove.
  • Mr. Fulforth was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2019 at the age of 27; as a result, he had his left testicle removed.
  • As early as 1964, Defendants 3M and DuPont were aware that the stability of carbon-fluoride bonds prevented their PFAS products from degrading under natural processes. Defendants, Ansul, Buckeye, Chemguard and National Foam also engineered, developed, manufactured, marketed and sold AFFF contained PFAS including PFOS and related fluorochemicals that can degrade to PFOA or PFOS.
  • PFOS and PFOA can remain in the environment for decades, leach through soil and infiltrate and pollute groundwater and the environment.
  • Once water is contaminated by PFOS or PFOA, it cannot be removed by boiling the water or using chlorine and other disinfectants that are typically added to public drinking water systems.
  • Toxiciology studies show that PFOS and PFOA are readily absorbed after oral exposure and accumulate primarily in the serum, kidney, and liver.
  • PFOS and PFOA can cross the placenta from mother to fetus and from mother to infant through breast feeding.
  • Once ingested, PFOS and PFOA have a half-life within the human body of up to nine years.
  • PFOS and PFOA exposure is associated with increased risk of various diseases and cancers in humans, including, but not limited to: testicular cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, disorders such as thyroid disease, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, and pregnancy-induced hypertension, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, increased uric acid as well as other conditions.
  • Injuries, however, are not sudden; rather, they can arise months, years or decades after exposure to PFOS and/or PFOA.

The suit alleges negligence, failure to warn (product liability), design defect (product liability), and loss of consortium on behalf of Ms. Howard. Here is a copy of the complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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