The Andres Lopez Law Firm

Fire suppressants spark lawsuit

Products intended to provide safety can, at times, cause harm. In a personal injury class-action lawsuit, six former employees of the Florida State Fire College claimed that exposure to fire suppressants used at the college caused them to develop cancers and diseases.

The lawsuit was filed in federal district court for the Middle District of Florida against 10 manufacturers of this product. Plaintiffs include firefighters and instructors, administrative employees and others who could have been exposed to the chemicals in contaminated water around the college.

According to the lawsuit, the manufacturers were negligent and intentionally suppressed findings that chemicals in the suppressants were carcinogenic and environmentally dangerous. The plaintiffs also claimed that the manufacturers were aware of studies going back over 40 years about the product's adverse effects but continued to produce, sell and advertise the product.

Other allegations include the defendants' negligent failure to provide adequate warnings and place proper warnings on the product's container. They also allegedly did not take reasonable precautions to enforce safe handling procedures and develop a safer substitute.

Some class members may have been exposed to these suppressants but may not have exhibited symptoms. The plaintiffs did not charge when the suppressants were used at the college.

The plaintiffs seek over $5 million and establishment of a monitoring program financed by the defendants for class members who have not yet experienced illnesses. This program would include tests to monitor thyroid and liver function and screening for kidney and testicular cancer and reproductive or infertility issues. The class action may include hundreds of members.

The members of the lawsuit class may have been exposed to chemicals by consumption, inhalation or skin absorption. Plaintiffs who were administrative employees claim chemical exposure through its accumulation in pipes, faucets, showerheads, appliances, sinks and water fountains at the college.

Two chemicals of the suppressant's aqueous film-forming foam were particularly blamed. These chemicals were perfluoro octane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid. These chemicals are used by firefighters against fires involving petroleum, flammable liquids and other fuels.

The Environmental Protection Agency classified these chemicals as man-made chemicals that are toxic to humans, readily-absorbed after oral exposure and remain in the environment. These chemicals tend to amass in a person's blood plasma, kidney and liver.

Those who suffer harm from unsafe products may have the right to compensation. Lawyers may help them obtain evidence and pursue their rights.

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