Firefighters say farewell to forever chemicals
It’s Thursday, February 11, and firefighters are cutting ties with forever chemicals.
The nation’s largest firefighters’ union voted overwhelmingly last week to cut financial ties and end sponsorships with protective gear manufacturers that use per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS or “forever chemicals.” The union fears the substances are increasing cancer rates among firefighters.
PFAS are a group of chemicals linked to a range of adverse health effects, including high cholesterol levels, increased cancer rates, and low birth weights. They are used in a wide variety of products, including the fire-suppressing foams and protective clothing used by firefighters. Previous studies have shown that firefighters are at greater risk of both getting and dying from cancer than the general U.S. population.
The union’s resolution comes on the heels of a December lawsuit filed against manufacturers of firefighting equipment by a group of firefighters who were diagnosed with cancer and found to have had elevated blood levels of PFAS. Currently, firefighters have no choice but to wear protective equipment with PFAS, as there are no alternatives on the market.
“Something’s not adding up within the industry itself,” Ron Glass, a local union president in Orlando, told Bloomberg Law. “[W]hen you have five young firefighters that all come down with the same type of cancer over a five-year period, then there’s an issue out there. And I think we have an obligation as a union to study this.”
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