Toxic Exposure | Public Client

AFFF Chemical Contamination & Exposure Lawsuits

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The firefighting suppressant, aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) works by coating a fuel sources with a thick layer of foam, blocking the oxygen supply so that firefighters can better extinguish fires. Exposure to AFFF, however, may harm the firefighters exposed, as well as damage the environment into which it is discharged. Firefighting foams commonly contain polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFAS), or perflourinated chemicals, which are alleged to be toxic.

Military bases, manufacturing facilities, wastewater treatment plants, fuel-spill sites and other locations have been identified as sources of PFAS contamination throughout the country. Communities near these  locations that have suffered damages to property, natural resources and health are entitled to pursue compensation and accountability from wrongdoers.

Motley Rice attorney Fred Thompson is Liaison Counsel and a member of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee for multidistrict litigation in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina that alleges toxic AFFF contamination of groundwater near military bases, airports, and other sites where the foams were used. Communities near these sites have allegedly suffered a heightened need for medical monitoring, personal injuries, property damage, and economic losses due to the discharge of toxic AFFF chemicals into the environment. The MDL court is presiding over more than 75 lawsuits filed by people who live near sites where AFFFs were used, governmental entities, including municipalities and local water authorities, and individual personal injury claims.

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Local governments, including counties, towns and cities may have claims if their local water source or soil is contaminated by AFFF. Motley Rice has a long history of representing states, counties and municipalities in navigating complex litigations. If you believe you may have a claim, contact attorney Fred Thompson by email or call 1.800.768.4026.

AFFF Health Hazards

PFAS chemicals can move through soil, contaminate groundwater, and be dispersed through the air, allowing the chemicals to migrate long distances from the original source, according to the CDC. The chemicals are water soluble and do not break down. They are also bio-accumulative, meaning the chemicals build up over time in humans and animals and contaminate their blood. Exposure to the chemicals may cause an increased risk of cancer and other adverse health effects.

According to the CDC, studies have shown that people exposed to PFAS are at an increased risk for a number of severe side effects, including:

  • Increased risk for certain cancers
  • Reduced chances of pregnancy
  • Growth, behavioral effects in infants and older children
  • Resistance to childhood vaccines
  • Increased cholesterol levels

AFFF Exposure Background

The Department of Defense began using AFFF in the 1970s to extinguish petroleum-based fires. The foam was also used extensively in firefighting training on military bases.

Complex equipment used to apply AFFF requires repeated training, increasing the likelihood of contamination in nearby communities and environments. It is the confirmed or suspected cause of most PFAS contaminations near airport installations.  

Several companies manufacture AFFF and sell it to the U.S. military and civilians for use at airports, including 3M, Angus Fire, The Ansul Co., the Buckeye Fire Protection Co., Chemguard, Chemours, National Foam, Tyco Fire Products, and United Technologies Corp., and others. 

Our Experience

Motley Rice attorneys have worked for decades to protect victims of large-scale toxic exposures and public health crises, including representing government entities in comprehensive research initiatives and litigation to further public interests. In the 1990’s Motley Rice co-founders Ron Motley (1944-2013) and Joe Rice represented more than two dozen state attorneys general and other public entities in litigation against Big Tobacco. The litigation resulted in the $246 billion Master Settlement Agreement, the largest civil settlement in U.S. history. The resolution also included reimbursement to the states for publicly funded health care costs and advertising and sponsorship restrictions on the tobacco companies.

The firm represents residents of Kent County, Mich., in a class action alleging toxic waste from footwear manufacturer Wolverine World Wide contaminated residential wells and drinking water with PFAS chemicals for decades.

Joe Rice also served as a co-lead negotiator for two settlements with BP regarding the “Deepwater Horizon” oil spill, one of which is the largest civil class action settlement in U.S. history. The firm’s attorneys and co-counsel also worked for 18 years to advance and preserve litigation through to the U.S. Supreme Court that will require lead pigment companies to fund the removal of toxic lead paint from pre-1951 constructed homes in plaintiffs’ jurisdictions in California, enhancing the safety of millions of California children and families.  

Motley Rice attorneys also play a leading role in helping state and local governments combat the opioid crisis. Joe currently serves as co-lead counsel and a member of the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee for the National Prescription Opiate Multidistrict Litigation coordinated in the Northern District of Ohio. The firm’s representation includes dozens of states, cities, towns, counties and townships in the MDL and in investigations and litigation filed in state courts.

Related News

Military Times (Nov. 20, 2019): The list of military sites with suspected ‘forever chemicals’ contamination has grown
NPR (Feb. 14, 2019): EPA Says It Plans To Limit Toxic PFAS Chemicals, But Not Soon Enough For Critics
CNN (Feb. 14, 2019): What are PFAS chemicals, and what are they doing to our health?
The Intercept (Feb. 10, 2018): The U.S. military is spending millions to replace toxic firefighting foam with toxic firefighting foam


Motley Rice LLC, a South Carolina Limited Liability Company, is engaged in the New Jersey practice of law through Motley Rice New Jersey LLC. Esther Berezofsky attorney responsible for New Jersey practice.

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