Firefighting Foam, Asbestos, and Veterans' Cancer Risks

4 Min Read

firefighting foam

U.S. veterans put their lives on the line to defend our country. Unfortunately, many may have been exposed to toxic substances while they served. Some of the most dangerous were asbestos, a cancer-causing material, and AFFF, a chemical-based firefighting foam that also causes cancer. Learn how to get help if you have cancer from either AFFF or asbestos exposure.

U.S. Veterans in Danger of Cancer From Firefighting Foam and Asbestos

U.S. veterans that were exposed to asbestos and/or AFFF (aqueous film-forming foam) during their service are at risk of cancer today.

Asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects the linings of major organs, as well as other diseases. AFFF exposure can cause cancer to form in the liver, bladder, thyroid, or other body parts.

U.S. veterans never deserved to develop cancer from simply serving their country. Sadly, veterans didn’t know that exposure to asbestos or AFFF could cause them to get sick as the risks were hidden for decades.

Thankfully, help is available so veterans can get the medical care and financial aid they deserve.

Call (877) 450-8973 or chat now if you were exposed to asbestos or AFFF while serving and now have cancer. You may be able to access financial compensation.

AFFF Linked to Cancer in Veterans

The military has used AFFF firefighting foam since the mid-1960s. While AFFF was thought to be safe, it’s now known to contain dangerous chemicals called PFAS.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that PFAS are very long-lasting and can build up in the human body over time, putting those exposed at a higher risk of cancer.

Exposure to AFFF can cause:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Liver cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Rectal cancer
  • Renal or kidney cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Thyroid cancer

Kevin Ferrara, a veteran who spent two decades putting out fires in the U.S. Air Force, said military personnel weren’t told of the dangers in an interview with Spotlight on America.

"We were told it was soap and water. We sprayed it up and down the flight lines, out of the training grounds. We sprayed kids during fire prevention visits. We didn’t think it was toxic. We thought it was safe.”

— Kevin Ferrara, Former U.S. Air Force Command Deputy Fire Chief

It was not until the mid-2010s that military use of AFFF began to slow. However, many veterans had already been put at risk. AFFF is still in use even today, but the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) prevents the military from using it after 2024.

Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma Risks in Veterans

Between the 1930s and early 1980s, the U.S. military heavily relied on asbestos to make its assets more durable. At one point, a mandate required all U.S. Navy ships to use asbestos, and many bases, buildings, vehicles, and types of equipment also contained the substance.

The risks of asbestos weren’t well known for much of this time. Makers of asbestos-containing products knew the dangers all the way back in the 1930s but hid them to keep business booming.

Today, asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma — and veterans make up 33% of all cases.

Besides mesothelioma, asbestos exposure can lead to:

Steps were taken to remove asbestos from military bases, ships, and vehicles in the 1970s and 1980s, but thousands had already been put at risk. Thankfully, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can help veterans with mesothelioma access medical care and financial aid.

You can apply for VA benefits right now with help from Eric Hall, a military veteran and VA-accredited attorney.

Help for Veterans With Cancer From Firefighting Foam or Asbestos

U.S. veterans that got sick from asbestos or firefighting foam deserve high-quality medical care and financial compensation. Thankfully, help is available.

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center is standing by to assist veterans who have mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. We can also help veterans who are ailing after exposure to AFFF.

We can connect veterans to:

Get started right now by calling (877) 450-8973 — and on behalf of our team, thank you for serving your country.

FAQs About Veterans, Firefighting Foam, and Mesothelioma

Can firefighting foam cause mesothelioma?

No. The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. Firefighters may have been put at risk of asbestos exposure if an older building that had asbestos-based products caught fire. Fires could send asbestos particles flying into the air.

Because military firefighters relied on AFFF, they may have been exposed to both substances in these cases.

Military fire stations, trucks, and fire suits may have also contained asbestos.

Are firefighting foam and asbestos still used today?

AFFF firefighting foam is still in use by the U.S. military today, but it’s being phased out due to the health risks.

Asbestos is no longer used by the military, but older ships, vehicles, and bases may still contain this dangerous substance.

Military families living on Fort Bliss, Lackland Air Force Base, and Sheppard Air Force Base complained of asbestos and other toxins in a 2021 lawsuit. The case was filed against the private company that managed the military housing, not the U.S. government.

How do I know if my cancer was caused by AFFF or asbestos?

You might not remember exactly how you were exposed to toxic chemicals if you served decades ago — and that’s okay.

Our team can help pinpoint where you were exposed and what products you were exposed to, as we have a vast amount of information from past clients.

Call (877) 450-8973 or chat now if you think your cancer stems from military exposure to asbestos or AFFF firefighting foam. We can help you get started.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

View 5 Sources
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  2. Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Our Current Understanding of the Human Health and Environmental Risks of PFAS. Retrieved December 10, 2021, from
  3. House of Representatives. (2019, December). NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2020. Retrieved December 10, 2021, from
  4. Keith, M. (2021, October 19). Gas leaks, rodents, asbestos: 10 military families in Texas sued their landlord over unsafe living conditions in base housing. Retrieved December 10, 2021, from
  5. Naval History and Heritage Command. (n.d.). 80-g-K-13860 navy firefighter training. Retrieved December 10, 2021, from