In recent years, federal regulators and state governments have undertaken concerted efforts to address the crisis of PFAS contamination in waterways, utilities, and human populations. Clinical literature has assumed a crucial role in determining both the extent of PFAS pollution and the adverse health effects associated with exposure to the fluorinated chemicals.
A novel study from the Keck School of Medicine has contributed to a growing body of medical research that links PFAS exposure to lifelong bone diseases and disorders. Relying upon data from institutes of the University of South California (USC), researchers concluded that early exposure to PFAS in Hispanic adolescents can increase their risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.
The manufacturers responsible for PFAS contamination are currently confronting a series of “forever chemical” lawsuits from state governments, municipalities, and individuals which allege that the toxic substances in a popular flame retardant polluted water utilities and contributed to severe injuries. Lawsuit Legal News is closely following critical developments in the ongoing AFFF firefighting foam lawsuits and offers constant updates on court filings and decisions.
Keck School of Medicine Researchers Find PFOS Impacts Bone Development
An extensive body of medical literature has concluded that PFAS have the potential to target bone tissue. However, earlier studies commonly fail to account for the unique risks exposure to the toxic “forever chemicals” poses for Hispanic youth.
In an effort to rectify gaps in the literature, a group of researchers from the USC Keck School of Medicine conducted an extensive analysis of two cohorts of Hispanic adolescents and mixed-ethnicity young adults. Upon receiving approval from the USC Institutional Review Board, they followed the cohorts for an average of 3.4 years and monitored their bone mineral density (BMD) through the use of x-ray absorptiometry scans.
The study sought to determine the precise correlation of 5 PFAS and decreased BMD z-scores, particularly:
- Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)
- Perfluorooctanoicsulfonic acid (PFOA)
- Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)
- Perfluorohexane suflonic acid (PFHxS)
- Perfluorodecanoate (PFDA)
The Correlation of PFOS Levels and Decreased BMD
The study concluded that with each “doubling of PFOS” in particular, adolescents sustained a 0.003 g/cm^2 loss of trunk BMD per year. Interestingly, researchers did not discover similar effects on trunk BMD from other PFAS included in the study.
Moreover, male participants were more likely to sustain greater deductions in overall bone mass density than female adolescents, despite aberrant findings in one of the cohorts. One of the hypotheses researchers advance pertains to the endocrine-disrupting nature of PFAS.
Given the close correlation between hormonal developments during childhood and adolescent growth and bone mass density, the unhealthy presence of toxic PFOS could disrupt the production of osteoblasts. In turn, low osteoblast levels can result in a disequilibrium with osteoclasts and lower overall BMD.
These findings are likely to assume an important role in ongoing AFFF lawsuits, which allege that the “forever chemicals” in firefighting foam can result in severe injuries
Low BMD Can Cause Lifelong Bone Complications
Serious disruptions in bone formation at critical periods of development can result in lifelong bone diseases, including osteoporosis. The condition occurs whenever the production of bone tissue fails to outpace the natural deterioration of old bone material.
Hispanic populations in particular run a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, which inspired the Keck School researchers to investigate its potential connection to PFAS. If left untreated, osteoporosis can render sufferers more likely to experience bone fractures and considerable pain in the hips, wrists, and spine.
Multiple Studies Confirm Causal Link Between PFAS and Bone Tissue
In 2011, an analysis of data from the United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) discovered that PFAS may be detectable in the blood sera of 97-100% of the U.S. population. Although researchers had already begun to investigate the toxic chemicals’ impact on human health, such statistics revealed the sheer scale of the national fluorinated substances crisis.
Common areas of PFAS research address their carcinogenic potential, endocrinologic effects, and unique harmfulness to pregnant women. However, beginning in the early 2010s, a growing number of researchers turned to the probable osteotoxicity of PFAS and its long-term effects on bone health.
In addition to the recent Keck School study, important literature in recent years includes:
2019 Project Viva Cross-Sectional Study and PFAS
A 2019 study in Environmental Health Perspectives included 576 children enrolled prenatally in the Project Viva cohort, in Boston. Researchers were primarily concerned with determining whether PFAS exposure could result in low areal BMD z-scores.
After following the development of children recruited between 1999-2002, the study observed that PFOS and PFOA were the most common PFAS within the study population. In addition to increasing children’s risk factor for severe diseases, researchers concluded that early life exposure to these PFAS can interrupt or impair bone accrual and impact “lifelong skeletal health”.
2022 NHANES Data Analysis of PFAS Data
Another PFAS study from 2022 conducted a statistical analysis of data from 2011 to 2015 NHANES findings. The 848 participants ranged from 12 to 19 years, with a mean age of 15.
In much the same way that the Keck School researchers linked PFOS to lower bone mineral density in adolescents, the NHANES analysis discovered a negative association between PFAS and abnormal osteogenesis. Moreover, adolescent males experienced more severe impacts on bone development from PFOA and PFOS than did female participants.
2022 Environmental Health Article on PFAS and Bone Density
An article published in a 2022 edition of Environmental Health included 366 mother-child dyads and studied the correlation between bone mass density in children and PFAS exposure. In contrast to earlier studies, researchers discovered that PFNA displayed the strongest negative association with low aBMD z-scores, particularly in young males.
The study corroborated suspicions that bone tissue is a common target for PFAS, which is known to bioaccumulate and contribute to long-term skeletal complications.
What Are PFAS?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of manmade fluorinated chemicals encompassing thousands of individual compounds. Composed of highly resistant carbon bonds, PFAS degrade only very slowly and have a tendency to accumulate in wildlife and human tissues.
Over the course of the past several decades, PFAS evaded regulation and became staple components of a variety of consumer products like non-stick cookware and personal care products. Consequently, their unmitigated use has contributed to extensive environmental contamination.
One of the most common products that contain PFAS is aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which 3M Company developed in conjunction with the United States Navy in the 1960s. The popular flame retardant was uniquely effective in the suppression of Class B petroleum and oil fires.
Shortly after that, 3M Company and other high-profile chemical manufacturers like DuPont began to supply AFFF to petrochemical facilities, airports, and municipal fire stations. Only in the early 2000s did AFFF’s toxicity become apparent to federal regulators and users.
AFFF Lawsuits Target Prominent Chemical Manufacturers
However, internal documents from 3M and DuPont have revealed the companies’ knowledge of AFFF’s threat to human health since the 1970s. Rather than inform users and regulators of the risks, they withheld life-saving information and endangered countless thousands who encountered AFFF in an occupational setting or relied upon water supplies contaminated with firefighting foam runoff.
Consequently, prominent AFFF manufacturers have contended with a growing number of firefighting foam lawsuits since the mid-2010s. In recent months, the litigation has reached new heights, including:
Flurry of State Court Filings Address Contamination and Remediation Campaigns
State governments and municipalities have spent millions of dollars investigating the extent of PFAS contamination and remediating hazardous waterways and utilities. In an effort to recoup their losses and acquire funding for future campaigns, several Attorneys General have filed suit against AFFF manufacturers, including:
- 3M Company
- DuPont de Nemours, Incorporated
- Corteva, Incorporated
- The Chemours Company, LLC
- AGC Chemicals Americans, Incorporated
Firefighting Foam Multidistrict Litigation in South Carolina District Court
The most extensive litigation targeting the irresponsible manufacturers of AFFF is actively advancing the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. The first wave of AFFF fireghting foam lawsuits addressed the complaints of municipal water suppliers whose utilities had been contaminated with AFFF runoff.
3M Company and DuPont de Nemours settled the lawsuits in the leadup to the first bellwether trial for $10.3 and $1.18 billion, respectively. In upcoming fairness hearings, the court is poised to finalize the controversial agreements, which prompted various official objections from excluded towns, cities, and states.
The second set of litigation addresses the injuries of those who sustained dangerous levels of AFFF exposure in an occupational setting. As of December 2023, over 6,000 plaintiffs have enrolled in the multidistrict litigation (MDL), none of whose personal injury claims has been settled.
Common Damages in AFFF Firefighting Foam Lawsuits
The injuries linked to AFFF exposure are extensive and, in some cases, lethal. Several prominent and peer-reviewed studies have connected AFFF to various cancers, hormonal imbalances, and gestational complications.
Moreover, the costs associated with treatment are frequently stratospheric and may place unmanageable strain on entire households. Fortunately, plaintiffs in AFFF firefighting foam lawsuits reserve the right to seek compensation for their injuries in the form of economic and non-economic damages, including:
- Medical costs – past, present, and future
- Lost wages and income
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Decreased quality of life
- Loss of consortium
- Wrongful death
Although various online services offer immediate compensation estimates, they fail to perform holistic assessments and often ignore the unique circumstances of a prospect’s claim. That is why we strongly urge potentially eligible plaintiffs to speak with an AFFF firefighting lawyer as soon as possible.
Contact an Experienced AFFF Firefighting Lawyer Today
Prominent manufacturers of AFFF should have warned users and consumers about the risks inherent in firefighting foam. Instead, they ignored or intentionally suppressed the findings of authoritative medical literature and endangered the public in the process.
That is why our qualified AFFF firefighting foam lawyers are on standby to offer advice and assistance to prospective clients. In a free consultation, we can determine the eligibility of your claim, calculate the compensation to which you may be entitled, and work tirelessly to defend your rights as you tend to your health.
With over 120 combined years of personal injury law experience, our talented legal team is familiar with the complexities of multidistrict litigation and possesses a proven track record of success.
For more information, contact us today.