Firefighting Foam

Firefighting foam is a foam that smothers fires by depriving them of the oxygen they need to continue burning. One type of this foam — known as aqueous film-forming foam or AFFF — is frequently used by airport firefighters and U.S. military firefighters to control and extinguish fires.

Unfortunately, AFFF contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), chemicals that are slow to break down in the human body and the environment, and which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

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What Are the Types of Firefighting Foam?

The two main types of firefighting foam are Class A and Class B:

  • Class A firefighting foam is used to extinguish fires that originate in brush, wood, or paper. Class A foams were developed in the 1980s to fight wildfires. They work by penetrating a fire, as opposed to Class B foams, which work by smothering a fire.
  • Class B firefighting foam is used to extinguish fires at airports, on military bases, in petroleum and chemical plants, and in some large storage facilities. It’s particularly effective at extinguishing petroleum and jet fuel fires.

Generally speaking, Class A foams don’t contain PFAS. But many fluorinated Class B foams, including AFFF, contain PFAS.

In addition to the health risks posed to the military and airport firefighters who use it, AFFF has also been known to contaminate drinking water and adversely affect the environment.

How Does Firefighting Foam Work?

Firefighting foam cuts off the fire from the oxygen it needs to burn and prevents it from releasing flammable vapors. It smothers and suppresses the flames, as well as cooling them down.

On the other hand, water mainly just absorbs the heat from a fire, cooling it off but not depriving it of oxygen. Water can also boil and spurt on fuel fires, spreading the flames around. This is why firefighting foam is usually more effective at extinguishing a fire, especially a fire involving petroleum or jet fuel.

What Is Firefighting Foam Made Of?

Firefighting foam has three main components: water, air, and foam. Class B foams often contain PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances), a heat-resistant group of chemicals sometimes called “forever chemicals” because they take so long to break down.

PFAS have been linked to several different types of cancer, including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, and bladder cancer.

What Are PFAS?

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of “forever chemicals” used in numerous products — including firefighting foam, furniture, cookware, food packaging, clothing, and adhesives — because they’re heat- and oil-resistant.

PFAS include:

  • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA or C8)
  • Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)
  • Other PFA substances

PFAS have useful properties, but they’ve also been linked to a greater risk of developing cancer, particularly for the military and airport firefighters who use them frequently.

Is Firefighting Foam Toxic?

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) — found in many firefighting foams — as a possible human carcinogen, meaning that it could cause cancer.

This is even more concerning because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PFAS do not break down in the environment and break down slowly in humans and other animals, if at all.

Exposure to PFAS can occur in one or more of the following ways:

  • Drinking PFAS-tainted water
  • Eating foods that contain PFAS (such as certain fish)
  • Using products that contain PFAS or are packaged in PFAS materials
  • Working as a firefighter or in a chemical plant

U.S. military and airport firefighters are at an exceptionally high risk of PFAS exposure and cancer because they use AFFF more frequently.

Does AFFF Cause Cancer?

Potentially, yes. Studies have found that PFAS, which are found in many types of AFFF, may cause the following cancers:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Liver cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Rectal cancer
  • Renal (kidney) cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Thyroid cancer

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with AFFF cancer after exposure to a PFAS firefighting foam, you could recover compensation through a firefighting foam lawsuit. Connect with a lawyer to learn more.

What Is a Firefighting Foam Lawsuit?

A firefighting foam lawsuit is a legal claim filed against AFFF manufacturers seeking compensation for injuries resulting from exposure to firefighting foam.

The PFAS found in firefighting foam has been linked to cancer, so firefighters who develop cancer after using AFFF may be able to receive AFFF settlements to help pay for medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses.

Who Can File a Firefighting Foam Lawsuit?

You may be able to file an AFFF lawsuit if you or a loved one:

  • Worked as a firefighter
  • Were exposed to firefighting foams
  • Have been diagnosed with pancreatic, kidney, testicular, thyroid, bladder, breast, colon, liver, or prostate cancer, or leukemia or lymphoma

The best way to determine if you qualify for a firefighting foam lawsuit is to speak with an experienced firefighting foam attorney. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case review.

5 AFFF Safety Tips for Firefighters

While most PFAS-containing AFFF has been phased out and even banned in some states, firefighters should always use best practices when it comes to this hazardous material.

Here are 5 safety tips:

  1. Always use Class A foam unless Class B is needed to save lives.
  2. Check your firehouse’s inventory to see if it contains Class A concentrate.
  3. Dispose of Class A foam properly by solidifying it and sending it to a hazardous waste landfill.
  4. If you’re unsure if AFFF concentrate contains PFAS, you can send a sample to a laboratory for testing or dispose of it.
  5. Only train with Class A foam.
  6. Wear personal protective clothing and respiratory equipment when working with PFAS-containing firefighting foam.

Next Steps for Firefighters Who May Have Been Exposed

If you’ve been exposed to PFAS-containing AFFF, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor and let them know. They can make a note of your exposure history and monitor you for any symptoms.

AFFF exposure symptoms include:

  • Asthma and respiratory issues
  • Changes in liver enzymes
  • Chemical burns
  • Higher cholesterol levels
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure
  • Rashes and other skin problems
  • Thyroid disease
  • Ulcerative colitis

Over time, those who have been exposed may be at an increased risk of developing certain cancers.

Many firefighter groups recommend that both active and retired firefighters get screenings for the early detection of cancers that commonly occur in this population.

How Do I Find a Good Firefighting Foam Law Firm?

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with cancer after exposure to firefighting foam, you should speak with an AFFF lawyer to see if you’re owed compensation.

The best firefighting foam law firms are likely to have the following qualities:

  • Billions of dollars recovered for clients
  • Decades of experience
  • Free consultations
  • Nationwide presence
  • No out-of-pocket costs has a network of experienced law firms across the country who may be able to help you secure your family’s financial future. Our firefighting foam lawyers never charge upfront or out-of-pocket fees, only getting paid if they successfully resolve your case.

Contact us today and start your free case review.

Written by: makes it easier to take legal action. We have information, lawsuit guides, and breaking news about drugs, products, and other issues that could affect you.

ReferencesView References
  1. “Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF). Retrieved February 1, 2024, from
  2. Bane, Todd B. “Foam Fundamentals.” Firehouse. April 1, 2019. Retrieved February 1, 2024, from
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS) Factsheet.” February 2, 2022. Retrieved February 1, 2024, from
  4. Environmental Working Group (EWG). “For decades, the department of defense knew firefighting foams with ‘forever chemicals’ were dangerous but continued their use.” March 6, 2020. February 1, 2024, from
  5. National Cancer Institute. “PFAS Exposure and Risk of Cancer.” (n.d.) Retrieved on February 1, 2024, from
  6. New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. “Class A and Class B Firefighting Foam – NH PFAS Investigation.” (n.d.) Retrieved February 1, 2024, from
  7. Sokolove Law. “Firefighting Foam (AFFF) Lawsuit.” Retrieved February 1, 2024, from
  8. United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Our Current Understanding of the Human Health and Environmental Risks of PFAS.” (n.d.) Retrieved February 1, 2024, from

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