Government Regulations on The AFFF Lawsuit: Past, Present, and Future

Aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) has long been a staple in firefighting due to its remarkable effectiveness in extinguishing fires. However, AFFF contains per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which pose significant health and environmental risks. 

Over the decades, government regulations on AFFF have evolved in response to growing evidence of its risks. These risks also gave rise to numerous lawsuits. This blog explores the regulatory landscape of AFFF, tracing its history and examining current regulations, and future developments.

Past: The Emergence of AFFF and Initial Regulations

AFFF was developed in the 1960s and quickly became an easy solution for fighting fires. It was especially used in military and industrial settings. Impacts on the environment or human health were not given much thought at first; instead, the emphasis was on how successful it was. This was mirrored in the regulatory framework, which placed few limitations on its application.

The first regulatory scrutiny of AFFF emerged in the late 20th century. It emerged when studies revealed the persistence and toxicity of PFAS compounds. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs reported that PFAS chemicals are present in the blood of the majority of Americans, as reported by ConsumerNotice. It doesn’t truly endanger life for a lot of individuals. However, people who have excessive blood levels of this substance may experience health problems. 

PFAS in drinking water has been under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) watch. But in the late 1990s, comprehensive regulations were still lacking. The absence of stringent rules allowed the widespread use of AFFF to continue unabated. It laid the groundwork for the environmental contamination issues we see today.

Present: Heightened Awareness and Stricter Regulations

In recent years, the adverse effects of PFAS have gained significant attention. They have been connected to immune system diseases and liver damage, among other health problems. Cancer is also one of the major health problems that PFAS causes.  This heightened awareness has prompted more stringent regulations and a flurry of firefighting foam cancer lawsuits.

The EPA has taken several steps in the United States to address PFAS contamination. For PFOA and PFOS, the EPA set a health advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion. These are two of the most notorious PFAS compounds found in AFFF. Several states have also enacted their regulations, often with stricter limits. 

The military has been particularly affected by these regulations. According to Source NM, the Department of Defense (DoD) has acknowledged that many military bases have been contaminated with PFAS. It has happened due to decades of AFFF use. It reports that 80% of its active and decommissioned bases need cleanup. It is currently required by the DoD to phase out AFFF that contains PFAS by 2024. It has also initiated extensive cleanup efforts at affected sites.

According to TorHoerman Law, lawsuits have emerged as individuals and communities seek compensation for PFAS-related damages. Major manufacturers of AFFF have faced numerous legal challenges, resulting in substantial settlements. These lawsuits hinge on claims that manufacturers knew about the risks but failed to warn the public.

Future: Towards Comprehensive Regulation and Alternatives

The regulatory environment for AFFF is probably going to get stricter in the future.

Other countries are also tightening regulations on PFAS internationally. According to the NRDC, the European Union has proposed phasing out all PFAS uses. They are offering extensions of 5 or 12 years for applications that require additional time to develop and transition to safer alternatives. They have also proposed a comprehensive ban on all non-essential uses of PFAS by 2030. This would significantly impact the use of AFFF across member states. Such global regulatory trends are likely to influence U.S. policies and practices.

Innovations in firefighting include fluorine-free foams as alternatives to AFFF. The goal of these advancements is to lessen the threats that PFAS pose to human health and the environment. But before making the switch, make sure the new foams adhere to fire safety regulations.


1. What is the AFFF 3M lawsuit?

In a global settlement deal last year, several AFFF water contamination cases against local water authorities were resolved. As part of the settlement agreement, it is said that 3M, DuPont, and the other defendants will pay $10.3 billion to settle these claims.

2. What is the new update regarding the AFFF lawsuit?

Over 250 more cases were added to the AFFF litigation in May of the current year (2024). In comparison, there were somewhat fewer new cases last month. 8,270 cases are pending in the MDL right now.

3. How have government regulations on AFFF evolved?

Government regulations on AFFF have tightened significantly over time. Initially, there were few restrictions, but as the dangers of PFAS became clearer, agencies like the EPA and DOD implemented stricter guidelines. Recent regulations focus on reducing PFAS use. It also mandated cleanup efforts at contaminated sites.

The evolution of AFFF reflects a balance between innovation and oversight. Growing awareness of PFAS impacts drives tighter regulations. Progress in cleanup and innovation hints at more stringent rules for safeguarding health and the environment.

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