Defenseless PFAS, PPE, Cancer, and Infertility Part 1

Tabuchi (2021) stated, “Over the past three decades, cancer has emerged as the leading cause of death for firefighters across the country, making up 75 percent of active-duty firefighter deaths in 2019 (para. 8). PFAS is a group of chemicals known scientifically as perfluoroalkyl substances. Even more concerning, according to the CDC, is there are more than 9,000 different types. These include PFAS, PFOS, PFOA, and others. PFAS chemicals are extremely stable both chemically and thermally. These are forever chemicals, meaning they bio-accumulate, bio-magnify, and will not degrade. These substances have been used in everything from carpet, furniture, non-stick cookware, firefighting foams, fabric, and firefighting gear. In the PPE industry, certain fabric and firefighting gear is treated with PFAS to repel stains, to waterproof gear so it doesn’t become heavier, repel oil, repel biological substances, and used in our PPE moisture barrier. These chemicals have been linked to four of the top eight cancers which are commonly found in firefighters. These include testicular, kidney, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and prostate cancer. Additionally, liver damage, decreased fertility, asthma, and endocrine disorders are cited (Sieff, 2020). Recently, Washington State placed a PFAS notice on PGI Inc. for their fabric. This is the very fabric in which our station top shirts and pants are made.

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