When you work as a firefighter in California, you expose yourself to a certain degree of risk. Some of the risks you face are the direct result of fighting fires. Other risks involve exposure to potentially dangerous or hazardous chemicals. A new study conducted by the University of Notre Dame suggests that the same chemicals used to make your gear waterproof may also be hazardous to your health.
Per Bloomberg Law, a growing body of evidence suggests that the same chemicals used to make your personal protective equipment waterproof and oil-resistant may expose you to large quantities of toxic fluorochemicals.
Exposure to hazardous levels of these and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals may increase your risk of developing work-related cancer. More research is necessary to determine exactly how these chemicals might transfer from your firefighting gear to your bloodstream. However, the amount of PFAs found on firefighting gear is enough for many fire departments to look into adopting new policies intended to reduce associated risks.
Many manufacturers of protective gear for firefighters use PFAs in their products. Some firefighters have filed suit against some of those manufacturers. Many of the suits allege that the manufacturers should have done more to understand and publicize the risks associated with these chemicals. The study about their dangers took place not because a manufacturer asked for it, but because a firefighter’s wife asked what, exactly, comprises her spouse’s protective gear.
The International Association of Fire Fighters said that the study provides important information about the risks you and others face in your firefighting careers and may help steer safety protocols for the industry moving forward.