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AFFF Exposure and Prenatal Health Risks: Is Your Unborn Child Safe?

Since 1960, the United States has extensively used AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam) in military and civilian firefighting. In addition to its near-perfect efficacy in dousing lethal fires, AFFF foam has also been linked to several cancers and chronic illnesses. 

AFFF contains PFAS (Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances), also known as ‘forever chemicals.’ These compounds have a persistent presence in the human body and the environment. It takes years for this toxin to be released from the human body, given that there is no further exposure to this carcinogen. 

According to TorHoerman Law, these toxins have been found to cause a wide variety of life-threatening health disorders. These include thyroid cancer, testicular cancer, and severe fertility issues in women.

In this blog post, we will shed light on the risks posed by PFAS exposure to the unborn child. 

Understanding AFFF and Potential Exposures

AFFF foams excel at extinguishing petroleum-based fires, a critical capability for military bases, airports, and industrial facilities. It works by smothering the fire with a film that disrupts the fuel and oxygen needed for combustion.

The very chemicals that make it a potent fire suppressant, the PFAS compounds, are lurking in more than 700 military locations around the United States. 

Exposure Routes For Pregnant Women

Pregnant women living near AFFF training sites or military bases may be exposed to PFAS through various pathways. Here’s a closer look at these potential risks:

Air and Water Contamination from AFFF Training

Airborne Particles: During AFFF training exercises, the foam can be aerosolized, creating a mist containing tiny PFAS particles. These particles can travel through the air, potentially reaching nearby communities and homes. Inhalation is a potential exposure route, especially for pregnant women living close to training grounds.

Water Contamination: Runoff from training areas or improper disposal of AFFF wastewater can contaminate nearby water sources like lakes, streams, and groundwater. This contaminated water can then be used for drinking, recreation, or irrigation, leading to unintentional PFAS ingestion.

Drinking Water Sources

PFAS Leaching from Landfills and Disposal Sites: Improperly disposed of AFFF or firefighting waste can leach PFAS into the surrounding soil and eventually contaminate groundwater sources. 

If this contaminated groundwater is used for public drinking water supplies, it can pose a significant exposure risk for entire communities, including pregnant women. According to The Guardian, around 25 million Americans consume drinking water poisoned with varying levels of PFAS. 

Water Treatment Challenges: Some traditional water treatment methods may be ineffective in removing PFAS from drinking water. This highlights the importance of regular water quality testing and potentially implementing advanced filtration systems in areas with known AFFF contamination.

Indirect Contact with Firefighters

Exposure Through Clothing and Gear: Firefighters who use AFFF on the job can have trace amounts of the chemicals absorbed into their uniforms and equipment. 

If these clothes or gear aren’t properly cleaned after use, there’s a potential risk of transferring PFAS to family members through close contact, such as hugging or sharing laundry facilities. This indirect exposure route could be a concern for pregnant women with firefighter partners.

If you ever suffer from severe health issues during your pregnancy and can attribute them to some of these sources, you can try to safeguard your child’s future by filing an AFFF foam lawsuit

PFAS and the Developing Fetus: A Cause for Concern?

The placenta, a vital organ during pregnancy, acts as a filter and exchange system between mother and fetus. While the organ effectively shields the baby from many harmful substances, emerging research suggests PFAS may be able to cross this barrier. 

Potential Health Risks

While the full picture of health risks associated with prenatal PFAS exposure remains under investigation, some concerning trends have emerged in recent research. Here are a few potential health issues that scientists are looking into:

Pre-eclampsia: This serious pregnancy complication involves high blood pressure and potential organ damage in the mother. Planned preterm birth is often utilized as a primary treatment for preeclampsia. Nevertheless, infants delivered prematurely encounter elevated risks. These include conditions like respiratory and feeding challenges, as well as cerebral palsy. 

Childhood Developmental Delays: Research has identified an association between prenatal PFAS exposure and developmental delays in children. These delays can encompass cognitive function, motor skills, and behavioral issues. 

Immune System Function: Emerging research suggests PFAS exposure may alter the developing immune system, potentially increasing susceptibility to infections and autoimmune disorders.

Thyroid Function: PFAS can regulate the functioning of the thyroid gland. This organ plays a crucial role in fetal development. Moreover, it produces key hormones that play an essential role in the development of a child. 

Protecting Yourself and Your Child 

To protect yourself and your unborn from potential AFFF exposure risks, consider taking the following concrete steps. 

  • Test your drinking water for PFAS using laboratory test kits. If levels exceed the current EPA health advisory level, install a reverse osmosis or activated carbon filtration system certified by NSF International to remove PFAS.

  • If you live within a 5-mile radius of an AFFF training site or military base, monitor wind patterns using local weather reports. Avoid outdoor activities, and keep windows closed when winds blow from the contaminated site toward your home.

  • Discuss prenatal PFAS testing options with your healthcare provider, such as umbilical cord blood testing. These tests can measure PFAS levels and inform decisions about minimizing exposure during pregnancy and lactation.

  • Join support groups like the PFAS Project Lab or Moms Clean Air Force to access resources, connect with affected families, and learn about the latest research and advocacy efforts. These organizations also offer free webinars and workshops to help you navigate the complex issues surrounding AFFF exposure.

By taking these concrete steps, you can actively work to minimize potential risks and protect your child’s health in the face of evolving AFFF exposure concerns.

To conclude, while the journey to parenthood is filled with joy, it can also come with anxieties. If you are concerned about AFFF exposure, know you are not alone.

By staying informed, taking action, and seeking support, you can create a safe and nurturing environment for your precious arrival. The future holds the promise of clearer answers, and together, we can advocate for a healthier world for all children.

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