BlogProtecting Firefighters from PFAS: The Hidden Dangers

May 28, 20240
Protecting Firefighters from PFAS: The Hidden Dangers
Protecting Firefighters from PFAS: The Hidden Dangers

The Unseen Threat to Firefighters- PFAs 

Firefighters face numerous daily risks, but a hidden danger in their protective gear and firefighting foam raises alarming concerns. PFAS, known as “forever chemicals,” are linked to cancer and are found in aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) and firefighter gear. These chemicals are not only a threat to their health but also contaminate water supplies, leading to a nationwide outcry for safer alternatives and regulations.

The Deadly Impact of PFAS on Firefighters

The International Association of Firefighters has reported that cancer was responsible for 72% of active-duty firefighter deaths last year, compared to only 4% from smoke inhalation. This stark statistic underscores the severe threat posed by PFAS exposure. Firefighters are at risk not only from the fires they fight but also from the tools and gear meant to protect them. The presence of PFAS in AFFF and firefighter gear contributes significantly to this health crisis.

State Actions and the Fight Against PFAS

While safer alternatives to AFFF exist, many fire stations still possess harmful foam. In response, thirty-four states have implemented policies to limit or ban AFFF use, with Ohio leading the charge by committing to destroy its stockpiles. This proactive step by Ohio, exemplified by Fire Station 22 in Bellbrook, highlights the urgency of addressing PFAS contamination.

Legal Battles and Corporate Accountability

The fight against PFAS is also playing out in the legal arena. In 2022, a class action lawsuit was filed against companies manufacturing and selling AFFF, alleging contamination of public water supplies. Major companies like Chemours, DuPont, Corteva, and BASF have reached substantial settlements, amounting to billions of dollars. These settlements reflect the growing recognition of the health risks posed by PFAS and the responsibility of manufacturers to address these dangers.

Vineet Dubey’s Call to Action

Vineet Dubey, founding partner at Custodio & Dubey LLP, emphasizes the critical need for prioritizing health and safety for firefighters. He states, “We are living in a world where each day more danger is coming to light for already traditionally dangerous occupations. Health and safety must be moved to the forefront of priorities for those putting their lives at risk for their communities each and every day. We cannot have firefighters more afraid of cancer than the fires they are committed to fighting. With diminishing health risks, there should be no easy way out. In this case, Ohio is setting a standard with a sense of urgency I hope to see followed by the rest of the country.”

Conclusion: A Call for Nationwide Action

The actions taken by Ohio and the ongoing legal battles signify a growing awareness and urgency to protect firefighters from PFAS exposure. As more states follow suit and manufacturers are held accountable, there is hope for a safer future for our heroes. Firefighters should be able to focus on their duty without fearing for their health due to the very tools meant to protect them.


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