3M, DuPont and other makers of PFAS chemicals are facing a class action lawsuit filed by 23 firefighters and their spouses who claim that they developed cancer and other health problems caused by long-term exposure to the so-called “forever chemicals.”

Filed on July 15, the lawsuit also names Honeywell, Carrier and other manufacturers of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) as defendants. 

AFFF is a foam used in fighting fires. Commonly used in firefighting training, AFFF often leaves firefighters covered in the foam at the end of the training, AboutLawsuits.com reports. 

The plaintiffs allege that the foam has caused them to develop certain cancers, including cancer of the pancreas, testicles and kidneys. The lawsuit alleges that the manufacturers failed to warn the firefighters about the risks associated with AFFF. 

PFAS chemicals, which are resistant to breaking down naturally in the environment, may accumulate in human tissue and have been associated with other diseases, including metabolic syndrome, thyroid and liver damage. Prostate cancer is the most common syndrome that the firefighters have developed. 

The class consists of 23 retired firefighters and four spouses, all of whom are residents of Massachusetts. The plaintiffs allege that they were exposed to PFAS-based fire-fighting foam for decades and that serum testing has indicated that their blood levels showed very high concentrations of PFAS chemicals. 

“To date, there is no safe, acceptable or ‘normal’ level of PFAS in the human body,” the lawsuit states. “PFAS exposure affects nearly every system in the human body. It has been associated with multiple and serious adverse health effects in humans including … immune system and endocrine disorders, thyroid disease, birth defects, decreased fertility, pregnancy-induced hypertension, accelerated changes in gene expression, and increases in oxidative stress which can contribute to DNA changes, tumor promotion, and other health conditions.”

The lawsuit states that the plaintiffs were never warned that their firefighting coats would fail to protect them from exposure to PFAS chemicals. 

Hundreds of similar PFAS firefighting foam federal lawsuits remain unresolved.