New Legislation Aims to Protect Firefighters from PFAS in Turnout Gear

Firefighters put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities. They face numerous risks and dangers in their line of work, but one hazard that often goes unnoticed is the potential risk of exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their turnout gear. These harmful chemicals, also known as “forever chemicals,” have been linked to a range of health effects, including cancer. To address this issue, a group of bipartisan lawmakers has introduced the Protecting Firefighters and Advancing State-of-the-Art Alternatives Act (PFAS Alternatives Act). This legislation aims to support the development of new gear that does not contain PFAS, which have been linked to cancer and other adverse health effects. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer allegedly caused by exposure to harmful PFAS, contact Consumer Safety Watch today for help. 

Understanding the Dangers of PFAS

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of fluorinated chemicals that have been widely used in various industries due to their water and grease-resistant properties. They can be found in a range of products, including firefighting foam, non-stick cookware, and waterproof fabrics. However, PFAS are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic, posing serious risks to human health and the environment. Studies have shown that all three layers of firefighter turnout gear contain PFAS, exposing firefighters to these toxic chemicals on a daily basis. PFAS have been linked to various adverse health effects, including reproductive and developmental harm, immune system issues, and cancer. In fact, studies have shown that cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters.

What is the PFAS Alternatives Act?

The PFAS Alternatives Act, introduced by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and a bipartisan group of representatives, aims to address the issue of PFAS exposure in firefighter turnout gear. This legislation will support the development of next-generation PFAS-free gear through research, development, and testing of PFAS-free materials. By accelerating the development of PFAS-free turnout gear, the bill aims to provide firefighters with safer alternatives that do not pose unnecessary health risks. The PFAS Alternatives Act also seeks to facilitate the development of safer gear materials that better protect firefighters. This includes enhanced protection against primary and secondary exposure to particulates and byproducts of combustion, reduced maintenance requirements, visible warning indicators for hazardous exposures or decontamination needs, and gear design considerations based on body composition. By prioritizing the safety and well-being of firefighters, this legislation aims to equip them with the highest quality gear available.

Supporting Guidance and Training for Firefighters

In addition to the development of PFAS-free gear, the PFAS Alternatives Act emphasizes the importance of guidance and training for firefighters. This includes providing firefighters with best practices for reducing harmful exposures through proper wearing, cleaning, and caring for next-generation turnout gear. By ensuring that firefighters have access to the necessary knowledge and resources, this legislation aims to empower them to protect themselves from the potential risks associated with PFAS exposure.

To ensure the effectiveness and practicality of the next-generation turnout gear, the PFAS Alternatives Act also emphasizes the involvement of the firefighting industry in the development process. Grant applicants will be required to utilize the leadership, experience, and knowledge of firefighters to ensure that the gear meets the demands and challenges faced by firefighters in their daily work. By directly involving the firefighting community, this legislation seeks to create gear that is not only effective but also practical and well-suited for the unique demands of firefighting.

The Future of PFAS-Free Turnout Gear

The PFAS Alternatives Act proposes an annual authorization of $25 million for each fiscal year from 2024 to 2028 to support the development of new materials for PFAS-free gear. An additional $2 million annually would be allocated to support guidance and training for firefighters. This funding will play a crucial role in advancing research and innovation in the firefighting industry, ensuring that firefighters have access to the safest and most effective gear available.

The PFAS Alternatives Act has received endorsements from the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and Globe Manufacturing Company, a New Hampshire-based turnout gear manufacturer. “For too long, firefighters have been needlessly exposed to cancer every day simply by putting on the protective gear necessary to respond to emergencies in our communities,” said IAFF General President Edward Kelly in response to the new legislation. “Chemical companies, who have known for years about the cancer-causing properties of PFAS, have seen increased earnings while firefighters face repeated exposure to toxins directly linked to illness and death.” 

As a manufacturer of turnout gear, Globe applauds the “commitment to develop innovative, next-generation materials for firefighter turnout gear and address the demand for PFAS-free materials.” Said Globe’s Chief Operating Officer Bob Apel, “Globe looks forward to continuing its long-term advocacy efforts working with congressional champions, the International Association of Fire Fighters, and other stakeholders to promote this investment in innovation and pass the PFAS Alternatives Act.” 

Find Out How Consumer Safety Watch Can Help

Firefighters play a vital role in protecting our communities and it is essential to prioritize their health and safety by reducing their exposure to harmful substances like PFAS. By supporting the development of PFAS-free turnout gear and providing guidance and training for firefighters, the PFAS Alternatives Act aims to better protect those who put their lives on the line to protect us. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer following occupational exposure to firefighting foam, do not hesitate to speak to a firefighter foam cancer attorney about your legal options. You may be able to recover financial compensation for your medical expenses and other damages related to your cancer diagnosis. Call us today to find out. 

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