The House passed legislation Dec. 1 directing the federal government to develop guidance for fire fighters on best practices to prevent PFAS exposure on the job. The Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), now awaits President Joe Biden’s signature.
The bill passed the Senate last summer, where it was authored by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), and co-sponsored by Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Thom Tillis (R-NC).
“The IAFF strongly supports all efforts to reduce exposures to PFAS and other carcinogens,” said General President Edward Kelly. “PFAS is all around us. It is in our bunker gear, our PPE, and training foam. Until PFAS can be removed and replaced with safer alternatives, we must incorporate all preventative measures. I am grateful that our elected officials are taking action and look forward to continuing to work with them to extinguish cancer from the fire service.”
Once this legislation is signed into law, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the United States Fire Administration (USFA) have one year to publish training guidance. The curriculum is required to include ways to reduce or eliminate exposure to PFAS from firefighting foam and PPE, strategies for preventing the release of PFAS from firefighting foam into the environment, and provide emergency personnel with information on alternatives to PFAS equipment and foams.
While PFAS-free alternatives for turnout gear and other equipment are still in development, there are now at least 90 fluorine-free foams available from 22 manufacturers.
Several states have already banned most uses of foam that contains PFAS, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, and Washington.
“Firefighters and first responders put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities in Michigan and across the nation safe,” said Peters. “This bipartisan, commonsense legislation will protect our heroes from harmful PFAS substances and minimize exposure to these dangerous chemicals that continue to harm residents and communities in Michigan and across the country.”
“Forever chemicals are an urgent threat to public health and specifically our fire fighters who are on the frontline,” said Dingell. “Emergency response teams are frequently exposed to harmful PFAS in firefighting foams and personal protective equipment as they work to keep our communities safe. This is an important, bipartisan, and meaningful bill to protect the health and safety of our first responders from harmful PFAS in the line of duty.”
“The battle against PFAS is the battle of our generation,” added Kelly. “We will need help from all corners to save the lives of current and future fire fighters. This IAFF won’t rest until we see the day when our sister and brother members aren’t having their lives cut short by the scourge of cancer.”