Class Action Suit Filed Against AFFF Manufacturers

Three firefighters from New York state have filed a class action lawsuit against 28 companies involved in varying degrees with the manufacture and sale of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF). Thomas J. Gentile, Tommy McGarry, and Charles O’Keefe filed suit last week in US District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Gentile, who is still a firefighter with the “Brooklyn Fire Department”, developed testicular cancer; McGarry, who is retired, suffers from chronic fatigue, heart disease, and high cholesterol; and O’Keefe, a current firefighter with the Stewart Air National Guard Base Fire Department, does not identify any current medical conditions, but expresses the concerns that all three plaintiffs mention, that they are:

at an increased risk of developing several serious health conditions, including but not limited to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, liver dysfunction, hypercholesterolemia, and autoimmune diseases such as sarcoidosis.

Listed as defendants in the case are 3M Company, AGG, Inc., Amerex Corporation, Angus Fire Armour Corporation, Arkema, Inc., Archroma US., Inc., BASF Corporation, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, Chemguard, Inc., Chemicals, Inc., Chubb Fire, Ltd., Clarian Corporation, Daiken America, Inc., Daikin Industries Ltd., Deepwater Chemicals, Inc., DuPont De Nemours, Inc., Dynax Corporation, Dyneon, LLC, E.I. DuPont De Nemours and Company, Fire Services Plus, Inc., Kidde-Fenwal, Inc., Narchem Corporation, National Ford Chemical Company, National Foam, Inc., Raytheon Technologies Corporation, Solvay Specialty Polymers, USA, LLC, the Ele Corporation, and UTC Fire and Security Americas Corporation, Inc.

The suit is filed by the three named firefighters on behalf of all firefighters who are similarly situated. Among the highlights:

  • Studies by 3M in 1978 showed that PFOA reduced the survival rate of fathead minnow fish eggs, that PFOS was toxic to monkeys, and that PFOS and PFOA were toxic to rats. In the study involving monkeys and PFOS, all of the monkeys died within days of ingesting food contaminated with PFOS.
  • In 1979, 3M and DuPont discussed 3M’s discovery of PFOA in the blood of its workers and came to the same conclusion that there was “no reason” to notify the EPA of the finding.
  • By at least the end of the 1980s, additional research and testing performed by Defendants, including at least 3M and DuPont, indicated that elevated incidence of certain cancers and other adverse health effects, including elevated liver enzymes and birth defects, had been observed among workers exposed to such materials, including at least PFOA, but such data was not published, provided to governmental entities as required by law, or otherwise publicly disclosed at the time.
  • In 1981, DuPont tested for and found PFOA in the blood of female plant workers Parkersburg, West Virginia. DuPont observed and documented pregnancy outcomes in exposed workers, finding two of seven children born to female plant workers between 1979 and 1981 had birth defects—one an “unconfirmed” eye and tear duct defect, and one a nostril and eye defect.
  • In 1984, 3M documented a trend of increasing levels of PFOS in the bodies of 3M workers, leading one of the company’s medical officers to warn in an internal memo: “we must view this present trend with serious concern. It is certainly possible that . . . exposure opportunities are providing a potential uptake of fluorochemicals that exceeds excretion capabilities of the body.”
  • Defendants Hid What They Knew from the Government and the Public

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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