WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Many firefighters are concerned the gear they wear is putting them in danger, but U.S. lawmakers have stepped in with a solution.
For years, firefighters have known the gear they wear to protect themselves could be toxic.
Retired Palm Beach County firefighter Ric Jorge is one of those first responders.
“I’ve always wanted to be a fireman for as far back as I can remember,” he said.
Jorge’s helmet carries visible scars of his firefights, but now he suspects the gear designed to protect him could have actually hurt him.
“You see the statistics and the different types of cancer, I just looked at it realistically and said, ‘All right, it’s just a matter of time,'” he said.
Diane Cotter began asking questions when her husband, a retired Massachusetts firefighter, was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“Paul was an amazing firefighter, truly a fireman’s firefighter,” she said.
Cotter suspected the gear he wore for decades caused the cancer.
That’s because it contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a toxic chemical also known as PFAS, used as waterproofing. It is known to cause cancer.
PFAS is also found in firefighting foam.
Cotter and others lobbied Congress and won.
On Friday, the House of Representatives passed the “Build Back Better” bill, which includes $95 million to purchase PFAS-free turnout gear and foam.
“This is a really big deal. As you probably know, firefighters are exposed to the toxic forever chemicals PFAS much more than the rest of us,” said Scott Faber with the Environmental Working Group.
It’s a win-win for many local fire departments that lack the money to switch to the PFAS-free alternatives.
The bill will now go to the Senate.
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