The IAFF hosted the world premiere of BURNED: Protecting the Protectors – a 30-minute documentary that details the dangers of PFAS in turnout gear – at the 2023 Affiliate Leadership Training Summit in Las Vegas.
The film, produced by actor Mark Ruffalo, profiles Diane Cotter who suspected forever chemicals could be present in turnout gear after her husband, retired Worcester, MA Local 1009 fire fighter Paul Cotter, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in late 2014. She spent several years immersing herself in existing research while pursuing answers from scientists, corporations, and politicians.
“We thought for years that our cancer was from absorbing the off gases from burning combustibles, building debris. We thought that was what was making us sick. We know now that our own gear is part of that problem,” General President Edward Kelly said in the film. “The very thing that was supposed to be keeping us safe was making us sick. We would not know that without fire fighters’ hero Diane Cotter.”
Director Elijah Yetter-Bowman first met the Cotters while making GenX, a documentary about the PFAS public health crisis. As more research showed the dangers of PFAS in turnout gear, Yetter-Bowman decided the time was now to make a documentary educating fire fighters and the public about the critical issue.
“No sensible person would require first responders to knowingly expose themselves to toxic materials as a requirement to do their jobs, but that’s exactly what has happened for decades,” said Yetter-Bowman. “Fire fighters need protective gear that will not poison them. With the IAFF leading the way, I believe we will get there rapidly.”
Locals can request a free screening of BURNED online at etherealfilms.org/burned.
Kelly announced at ALTS that the IAFF had retained three nationally recognized law firms to change the regulatory standards that have allowed carcinogens to stay in turnout gear, demand PFAS-free gear, and be available to be retained by members and families seeking compensation for PFAS-related illness. Members can learn more about the firms at PFASLawFirms.com.