PFAS in firefighting foam linked to testicular cancer in new study

By Grace van Deelen

A study of over 1,000 Air Force servicemen shows that exposure to firefighting foam containing PFAS may be linked to a higher risk of developing testicular cancer.

The research, led by scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a federally funded research center, adds to a collection of scientific work investigating the links between certain kinds of PFAS and a range of human health harms.

The new study specifically looked at PFAS as an ingredient in aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) used on military bases, and analyzed PFAS exposures of Air Force servicemen who worked regularly with AFFF for years.

The findings may give new credence to mounting lawsuits from military veterans claiming PFAS exposure in firefighting foam made them sick while manufacturers hid the health risks. Thousands of other lawsuits are pending against PFAS manufacturers 3M and DuPont, among other companies, alleging they spread harmful PFAS throughout the environment despite knowing of risks to human health.

“We were still under the perception that firefighting foam was safe,” said Kevin Ferrara, a retired former Air Force firefighter who used AFFFs on a regular basis for 15 years during his military career. While Ferrara has never had testicular cancer, he suffers from other health issues he believes are linked to PFAS exposure. He says that no one ever told him or his colleagues that the firefighting foam might have posed a health risk, and they didn’t usually take extra precautions to avoid direct contact with the foam.

“Now we know the truth,” he said.