Forever Chemicals Harm Communities Near Pensacola Military Base

Forever Chemicals Harm Communities Near Pensacola Military Base

A toxic group of chemicals known as PFAS have been detected on and around military bases located in Pensacola, Florida. The primary contaminant is AFFF firefighting foam that the military relies on to extinguish fires quickly. When PFAS contaminate the water supply, people in the surrounding communities can be exposed to high levels of these man-made toxins, such as in the Red Hill Spill at Kalaeloa Airport. 

In many cases, this can lead to cancer, organ damage, and other serious health conditions. There has been a wave of product liability lawsuits accusing AFFF manufacturers of negligence, such as in the Camp Lejeune lawsuits. Plaintiffs are pursuing compensation for their physical injuries, financial and emotional losses, and harm to their mental health. For more information about the process of filing a product liability lawsuit and an estimation of what your claim may be worth, you can reach out to our AFFF firefighting foam lawyers to schedule a free consultation.

Toxic Chemicals From AFFF Firefighting Foam Are Carcinogenic

PFAS, or per- and polyfluorinated substances, are widely considered environmental hazards and toxic to humans. They are present in everything from firefighting foam to nonstick cookware to tampons. Manufacturing companies and the U.S. military, two groups that are responsible for a large portion of PFAS contamination, are working on phasing out PFAS. However, for many people, the damage has already been done.

A number of cancers and life-threatening health conditions have been linked to exposure to PFAS found in AFFF firefighting foam. According to the CDC, these are the known risks associated with PFAS exposure:

Researchers are still working to understand the full implications of significant PFAS exposure. If you have reason to believe that you may have been exposed to PFAS, you should alert your doctor and seek medical help promptly if you develop any health issues. This increases the likelihood that any PFAS-related illnesses will be identified in their earlier stages, allowing you more treatment options. This also affords you a greater degree of legal protection, as seeking prompt medical treatment demonstrates that you attempted to mitigate your damages.

Military Has a History of Allowing Water Contamination

There are several military bases in the Pensacola, Florida area, including NAS Pensacola, Saufley Field, Corry Station, and Bronson Field. PFAS levels that far exceed the EPA’s 2016 health guidelines of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) have been found at all of these locations. The Pensacola military bases are far from the first to have dangerous levels of PFAS. 

The current situation is reminiscent of the chemical contamination situation at Camp Lejeune. A series of negligent actions over decades allowed PFAS from various sources to leech into the water supply, effectively poisoning military members, their families, and civilian contractors.  Despite the fact that the contamination at Camp Lejeune took place between 1953 and 1987, plaintiffs are still having difficulty recovering damages

The military has continued to use aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), despite acknowledging the dangers of the PFAS it contains, as it is the most effective method of extinguishing fires. The Department of Defense intends to eliminate the use of AFFF firefighting foam in 2024, although the environmental cleanup will likely take years, if not decades. In the meantime, the communities near Pensacola’s military bases are suffering the consequences.

Contamination Around Military Bases Disproportionately Hurts Communities of Color

In addition to the military’s pattern of allowing toxic chemicals to contaminate civilian water supplies, there is also a pattern in regard to which civilians are affected. Throughout the 1900s, discriminatory housing policies across the country prevented people of color from buying homes in white neighborhoods and relegated them to areas that became classified as poor quality. 

Due to this classification, the property values were significantly lower. The cheap land prices attracted industries that generated a lot of pollution, such as the U.S. military. As a result, it appears that communities of color have been disproportionately harmed by PFAS exposure.

Seeking Compensation for Damages from PFAS Exposure

Cancer can not only ruin your physical and emotional health, but it can also harm you financially. In addition to the cost of treatments, you have to consider the logistics of receiving cancer treatments. That can include taking time off of work, hiring a caregiver, and driving or flying long distances to receive care on a regular basis. 

These costs can be classified as economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages reference monetary losses associated with the plaintiff’s injuries, and non-economic damages compensate plaintiffs for intangible losses. Plaintiffs in AFFF firefighting foam lawsuits may be eligible to recover compensation for their financial losses, in addition to emotional costs associated with their injuries. 

Examples of Damages in Pensacola Contaminated Water Lawsuit:

  • Medical bills
    • Lab tests
    • Imaging 
    • Medication
    • Surgery
    • Hospital stays
    • Mobility aids
    • Chemotherapy
    • Radiation therapy
    • Home medical equipment
  • Job-related losses
    • Lost wages
    • Reduced earning capacity
    • Missed promotions
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Wrongful death

Establishing Fault in the AFFF Product Liability Lawsuits

Plaintiffs allege that AFFF firefighting foam makers were aware, or should have known, that their products contained carcinogens. The plaintiffs have the burden of proof in a product liability claim if they want to recover compensation for their damages. That means they need to demonstrate that their claims are more likely than not to be legitimate.

To do this, they must show that AFFF firefighting foam makers had a duty to the public to design a product that was free of harmful toxins and that they neglected this duty. Then, plaintiffs must show that this failure to fulfill a duty of care led to their cancer or other serious health condition and that their damages are related to this injury. If you have been exposed to PFAS after living or working on a Pensacola military base, you may be able to recover compensation for your damages in a product liability lawsuit. 

Hiring a product liability attorney can offer you valuable legal insight, resources, and peace of mind. They will calculate the value of your damages, ensure deadlines are met, establish liability, and negotiate for maximum compensation.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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