Firefighters battle an unknown threat: their gear may be toxic

The Biden administration has said that it will prioritize PFAS. In campaign documents, President Biden promised to designate PFAS as a hazardous substance that manufacturers and other pollutants pay for cleaning, and establish a national drinking water standard for the chemical. New York, Maine and Washington have moved to ban PFAS from food packaging, and other restrictions are in the works.

PFAS is required to bring products out of everyday products, such as food and cosmetics, textiles, carpets, ”Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit group that works on environmental health . “Firefighters are fully exposed, on top of all that.”

Lt. Ron Glass, president of the Orlando Professional Firefighters Union, a firefighter for a quarter-century, has saved two of his colleagues from cancer over the past year. “When I was first hired, the major cause of death was a line-of-duty fire accident, so it was a heart attack,” he said. “Now it’s all cancer.”

“Initially, everyone blamed the burning material, or foam. Then we started digging a little deeper into it and looking at our bunker gear, ”he said. “The manufacturers initially told us that there is nothing wrong, there is nothing harmful. But it turns out that PFAS is not only on the outer shell, but in the inner lining, which goes against our skin.”

Lt. Glass and his co-workers are now pressuring the International Association of Fire Fighters, which represents firefighters and paramedics from the United States and Canada, as well as to conduct further tests. Their formal resolution, presented this week at the union’s annual conference, also calls for the union to work with manufacturers to develop safer alternatives.

Captain Mitchell, meanwhile, is pressuring the union to reject future sponsors from chemical and equipment manufacturers, which he feels has slowed down action on the issue. In 2018, the union received nearly $ 200,000 from companies including clothing manufacturer WL Gore and equipment manufacturer MSA Safety, the record shows.

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