The Biden government has announced that it will make PFAS a priority. In campaign documents, President Biden promised to designate PFAS as a hazardous substance so that manufacturers and other polluters would pay to clean it, and set a national drinking water standard for the chemical. New York, Maine, and Washington have moved to ban PFAS on food packaging and other bans are in the works.
“PFAS must be dispensed from everyday products such as food and cosmetics, textiles and carpets, ”said Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit group that deals with environmental health. “In addition, firefighters are disproportionately exposed.”
Ron Glass, president of the Orlando Professional Firefighters Union, who has been a firefighter for a quarter of a century, lost two of his colleagues to cancer last year. “When I was first hired, the number one cause of death was fire, then heart attacks,” he said. “Now everything is cancer.”
“In the beginning everyone blamed the various burning materials or the foam. Then we looked a little deeper and looked at our bunker equipment, ”he said. “The manufacturers initially told us that nothing was wrong, that nothing was harmful at all. It turns out, however, that PFAS is not only on the outer shell, but also in the inner lining, which goes against our skin.”
Lieutenant Glass and his colleagues are now calling on the International Association of Fire Fighters, which represents firefighters and paramedics in the United States and Canada, to conduct further tests. Its formal resolution, presented this week at the union’s annual convention, also called on the union to work with manufacturers to develop safer alternatives.
Meanwhile, Captain Mitchell urges the union to reject future sponsorships from chemical and equipment manufacturers. The money he believes has slowed action on this matter. In 2018, the union received around $ 200,000 from companies like textile maker W.L. Gore and device maker MSA Safety, records show.