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Gear treated with “forever chemicals” dangerous for firefighters

When you make your living working as a California firefighter, using personal protective equipment is critical for your health and safety. Yet recent research reveals that you face health-related hazards when you don certain types of gear intended to make your uniform water-resistant.

According to Science Daily, tests conducted on the fabric used for firefighter turnout gear revealed that the fabric contains high levels of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances, or PFAs. Known as “forever chemicals,” these PFAs create notable health risks for you and all firefighters.

Risks associated with forever chemicals

Scientific studies have shown a link between exposure to PFAs and the development of certain health conditions. When you work as a firefighter and accumulate high levels of these chemicals in your bloodstream, it increases the likelihood of you developing four of the eight most common forms of cancer. More specifically, exposure to PFAs raises your risk of developing mesothelioma, prostate cancer, testicular cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Job-related exposure risks

If you have PFAs on the outer shell of your PPE and touch the gear with your bare hand before removing it and eating lunch, you run the risk of transferring the chemicals from your hand to your mouth. You may also face potential exposure if you sweat on the job. Some such chemicals may be able to enter your body through your sweat glands.

Researchers agree that more research is necessary to determine exactly how much of a risk PFAs are for firefighters. In the meantime, though, communities and fire departments should take operational steps to reduce exposure and minimize risks to the fullest extent possible.