As an organization advocating for firefighter health, MnFIRE extends its support for the joint statement regarding PFAS in PPE issued by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association.
The two national organizations presented the statement at the 2023 International Firefighter Cancer Symposium in late February to notify members of the adverse health risks from firefighter turnout gear.
According to the statement, recent studies have shown that all three layers of firefighter turnout gear contain Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), a class of fluorinated chemicals known as “forever chemicals” which have been linked to cancer and other serious health effects.
The IAFF and Metro Chiefs ask firefighters to reduce exposure to PFAS in turnout gear by using the following precautions:
- Turnout gear should NOT be taken into firehouse living areas.
- When transporting gear in personal vehicles, it should be in a sealed container or bag, and preferably NOT transported in the passenger compartment.
- Apparatus cabs should be cleaned regularly and after every fire.
- Wash your hands after handling turnout gear.
- Legacy turnout gear should be replaced as new PFAS-free technologies become available.
- Do not wear turnout gear on responses where this level of protection is not necessary.
Cancer is now the leading cause of death among firefighters nationwide. Firefighters have a 9% higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14% higher risk of dying from cancer than the general U.S. population.
All of us at MnFIRE join the IAFF and Metro Chiefs as we work together to rid the fire service of occupational cancer.
To learn more about cancer risks and mitigation, all Minnesota fire departments are eligible to sign up for no-cost MnFIRE training here.