IAFF files lawsuit against NFPA over gear testing standard

March 16 • 2023

In the next step in its fight to combat fire fighter cancer, the International Association of Fire Fighters filed suit March 16 against the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) for its role in imposing a testing standard that effectively requires the use of PFAS in fire fighter protective gear.  

“The very gear designed to protect fire fighters, to keep us safe, is killing us,” said General President Edward Kelly. “Standard 1971 needlessly requires the use of PFAS in fire fighter gear.”  

A provision in NFPA 1971 requires certain components of fire fighter bunker gear to pass the Ultraviolet Light Degradation Test. The test requires turnout gear to be exposed to UV light for 40 hours without degradation. The only substance that can pass the test for that long is PFAS. The complaint, International Association of Fire Fighters v. National Fire Protection Association, Inc., seeks to hold the NFPA liable for not removing the dangerous test from its Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting (Standard 1971).  

The suit, filed in Norfolk County Superior Court in Dedham, Mass., seeks damages and other relief. “It’s about removing the cancer-causing chemicals in our gear and finding justice for our brother and sister members,” said Kelly. 

In its effort to combat cancer in the fire service, the IAFF has retained three nationally recognized law firms, Motley Rice LLC; Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC; and Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo P.C. (collectively known as the PFAS Law Firms) charged with changing regulatory standards, demanding PFAS-free gear, and assisting IAFF members and families seeking compensation for PFAS-related illness. 

The IAFF has been aggressive in working to remove PFAS from fire fighter gear, focusing significant research, education, and publicity around the dangers posed by the forever chemicals. 

“Even when presented with independent science on the health and safety risks, the NFPA has refused to help save our lives,” said Kelly. “The IAFF has a duty to protect our members’ health and their families’ wellbeing.”

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