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Diseases resulting from exposure to AFFF's 'forever chemicals' can be easily misdiagnosed

For military and civilian firefighters, exposure to the per/polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) is problematic not only due to the range of deadly and debilitating conditions that can arise but also due to the high risk of misdiagnosis.

Because of this, it's essential that firefighters obtain a second or even third medical opinion to ensure an accurate diagnosis, which is also vital towards establishing eligibility for compensation.

Every year, millions of Americans receive inadequate diagnoses that can result in a litany of adverse and life-threatening outcomes. However, professional groups such as firefighters experience higher misdiagnosis risks due to the prevalent occupational hazards in their line of work.

A lesser known health hazard that fire service professionals and volunteers were long unaware of is AFFF, a firefighting foam designed to combat type B fuel blazes that gained widespread use on hundreds of US military bases, airports, and civilian fire departments since the early 1970s. Despite manufacturers' disingenuous attempts to conceal their product's health risks for decades, a growing body of clinical research indicates that the PFAS in its formulation are linked to a host of deadly and debilitating diseases.

Considering the multiple occupational exposures military and civilian firefighters encounter regularly and the extensive range of symptoms that can result from a plethora of unrelated causes or diseases, assigning an accurate diagnosis can prove challenging even for experienced medical professionals.

Obtaining an accurate diagnosis is vital not only for timely treatment options but also for determining the toxic exposures that may have contributed to their condition's development. Therefore, it's strongly recommended that firefighters obtain a second and even third medical opinion to ensure a more detailed and comprehensive diagnosis, concurrently increasing the odds of having their disability compensation claims recognized.

Veteran firefighters who served in the armed forces are advised to consider additional medical diagnoses outside of the VA's healthcare system.

Common misdiagnoses of conditions resulting from PFAS exposure

Colloquially dubbed 'forever chemicals,' PFAS are persistent artificial compounds comprising 50% to 98% of AFFF's contents and have been linked to several cancerous and non-cancerous afflictions. However, since many of the symptoms of PFAS exposure may overlap with unrelated conditions, the risk of misdiagnosis is considerably higher for firefighters.

The following represent only a part of the most frequent misdiagnoses of health issues stemming from exposure to AFFF's toxic ingredients:

  • Kidney Cancer - kidney stones, renal toxicity, cystitis, kidney failure, kidney disease, urinary tract infection
  • Thyroid Disease - high cholesterol, diabetes, mental health issues (anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder), menopause, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, infertility, chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Bladder Cancer - overactive bladder, urinary tract infection, bladder papilloma, benign prostatic hyperplasia, cystitis, kidney infection, kidney cancer, prostate infection, prostate cancer
  • Multiple Myeloma - anemia, amyloidosis, hypercalcemia, bone pain, kidney disease, Lyme disease, diabetes, arthritis, pneumonia
  • Hodgkin's Lymphoma - sarcoidosis, T-cell/histiocyte-rich large B-cell lymphoma, tuberculosis, Kikuchi-Fujimoto disease, malignant lymphomas, angioimmunoblastic lymphadenopathy
  • Liver Cancer - cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, hepatic hemangioma, liver abscess, gallstones, gastroenteritis, influenza, alveolar hydatid disease, pancreatic cancer
  • Prostate Cancer - benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostate enlargement, prostatitis, overactive bladder, bladder cancer
  • Testicular Cancer - Epididymal cyst/spermatocele, varicocele, hydrocele, lipoma, inguinal hernia, testicular torsion, infection, kidney stones
  • Ulcerative Colitis - proctitis, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, bacterial infections, diverticular colitis, colon cancer
  • Leukemia - autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome, trypanosomiasis, immune thrombocytopenic purpura, bleeding disorders, fever, influenza, chronic lymphoproliferative illness, myelodysplastic syndromes, mononucleosis, aplastic anemia
  • Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma - influenza, mononucleosis, cat scratch fever, appendicitis, ovarian cysts, gastroenteritis, hemorrhoids, costochondritis, autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome
  • Male Breast Cancer - gynecomastia, Paget's disease, large B-cell lymphoma, fibroadenomas, hematoma/bruising
  • Pancreatic Cancer - gallbladder disease, peptic ulcer, gastroesophageal reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, cystic neoplasm, biliary stricture, hepatocellular carcinoma, celiac disease, pancreatic pseudocysts, pancreatitis, autoimmune pancreatitis

As a result of AFFF manufacturers' irresponsible conduct, research into PFAS' health risks has stagnated for years, preventing the development of better diagnostics and treatment solutions. However, firefighters who used AFFF and developed a PFAS-related condition should consider the full range of tests which can provide a more precise and in-depth view of the underlying factors, including:

  • Kidney Cancer - urinalysis, blood tests, CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasound, angiography, renal biopsy
  • Thyroid Disease - blood tests, laryngoscopy, ultrasound, CT scan, PET scan, MRI scan, radioiodine scan, thyroid uptake test, thyroidal biopsy
  • Bladder Cancer - urinalysis, urine cytology, urine tumor marker tests, intravenous pyelogram, retrograde pyelogram, CT scan, ultrasound, MRI scans, cystoscopy, bladder biopsy
  • Multiple Myeloma - blood test, urine test, PET scan, CT scan, MRI scan, quantitative immunoglobulins, electrophoresis, bone marrow biopsy
  • Hodgkin's Lymphoma - blood tests, tests of heart and lung functions, PET scan, CT scan, MRI scan, lymph node and bone marrow biopsy
  • Liver Cancer - imaging tests, ultrasound, CT scans, MRI scans, angiography, alpha-fetoprotein blood test, liver function tests, hepatic biopsy
  • Prostate Cancer - prostate-specific antigen blood test, CT scan, MRI scan, PET scan, transrectal ultrasound, digital rectal exam, prostate biopsy
  • Testicular Cancer - blood test for tumor markers, ultrasound, PET scan, CT scan, MRI scan, testicular biopsy
  • Ulcerative Colitis - blood tests, sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, CT scan, MRI scan, stool culture, colon biopsy
  • Leukemia - blood tests, flow cytometry, CT scan, MRI scan, bone marrow biopsy, lumbar puncture
  • Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma - blood tests, tests of heart and lung functions, PET scan, CT scan, MRI scan, ultrasound, bone marrow biopsy
  • Male Breast Cancer - breast ultrasound, diagnostic mammogram, breast biopsy
  • Pancreatic Cancer - blood tests, ultrasound, PET scan, CT scan, MRI scan, angiography, cholangiopancreatography

Even with the most accurate diagnosis at their disposal, the lack of regulations surrounding 'forever chemicals' means that firefighters' PFAS exposure isn't automatically regarded as a presumptive or qualifying factor for disability compensation. If you are a military or civilian firefighter who used AFFF and is now struggling with a PFAS-related disease, Atraxia Law encourages you to reach out to us, and we will gladly help determine your eligibility for compensation from the liable manufacturers.

File an AFFF exposure claim with the help of Atraxia Law

For over 35 years, Atraxia Law's specialists have leveraged their experience in personal injury and toxic exposure claims to help individuals obtain the compensation their suffering entitles them to.

To evaluate your claim, we will only require that you provide us with your occupational/military records and medical documents confirming your diagnosis.

Once we establish your eligibility, we will put you in contact with a specialized attorney who will promptly file the claim on your behalf.