Last Call Foundation is committed to protecting firefighters from exposure to PFAS, a toxic and life-threatening substance commonly found in firefighter gear.
From Kathy Crosby-Bell, President, Last Call Foundation
One of the roles of Last Call Foundation is to provide funding for worthy research regarding anything impacting firefighter health and safety. A firefighter, Paul Cotter suffering job related, career ending cancer, and his wife, Diane Cotter came to LCF some years ago seeking funding for research related to suspected carcinogens (PFAS & PFOA) in the manufacturing of turnout (bunker) gear.
Last Call Foundation agreed to provide the needed funds, and with the guidance of Diane Cotter put together a committee of knowledgeable, informed professionals to digest and disseminate the outcome of the research conducted at Notre Dame by Nuclear Physicist Dr. Graham Peaslee.
Published in the summer of 2020 Dr. Peaslee’s research (link to research below) proved what Mrs. Cotter suspected, chemical coatings on bunker gear contain dangerous levels of known carcinogens. In my humble opinion not only should this be fully disclosed to every fire fighter, but it should be classified as an unnecessary exposure. The uproar in the fire service was deafening, first denials by manufacturers (sadly supported by many fire fighters) then mudslinging, then painfully slow, acknowledgment by the fire service.
In response to the certain knowledge that PFAS and PFOA are playing a significant role in the cancer rates in the fire service, and with the full support of the rank-and-file IAFF General President Ed Kelly filed Tentative Interim Amendment 1594, in 2021, regarding NFPA 1971, the Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, 2018 Edition. The NFPA technical committee, quickly followed by the standards council, closed ranks and voted to deny the TIA regarding NFPA 1971.
This research confirms and expands on Dr. Peaslee’s research. Perhaps it is time for the fire service to write its own spec’s regarding turnout gear? Firefighters health indeed their lives are not, cannot and as the NFPA rejection of TIA 1594 clearly shows should never have been at the mercy of the self-interests of the NFPA. Sadly I’ve come to understand why so many fire fighters consider the NFPA “the manufacturers publishing company”.
Common sense says, for now ALWAYS WEAR YOUR TURNOUT GEAR IN A FIRE. It will protect you there. However, do not wear turnouts when they are not needed! Meanwhile, the best advise I’ve heard is - demand safety protocols for handling turnout gear and fight like hell until you get new turnout gear, manufactured without chemical carcinogen treatment.
And by the way thank Diane Cotter!
December 27, 2021 the latest research, supported by the IAFF, was published in Environmental Science & Technology.
Firefighter turnout gear is essential for reducing occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals during training and fire events.
The Path to PFAS-Free Firefighting Gear
Statement from Last Call Foundation
Lawsuit filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey against major manufacturers of toxic “forever” PFAS chemicals
We are delighted to see that Attorney General Maura Healey has acted against the manufacturers of forever chemicals by filing suit against a host of manufacturers. However, we are left wondering why the suit does not mention firefighting bunker gear manufacturers.
These same chemicals are used in the manufacture of bunker gear which is worn daily by our firefighters. Not long ago, Last Call Foundation funded a study at the University of Alabama led by Dr. Suzanne E. Lapi. The results showed an alarming rate of dermal absorption. Clearly, firefighters are being poisoned by the gear meant to protect them.
Despite every effort of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) to request technical changes to the manufacturing requirements of bunker gear, neither the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) nor the Attorney General have demanded the removal of these chemicals from bunker gear.
I’m here to tell you firefighter’s matter. Their health matters, and we won’t be quiet anymore!
Firefighters do not want or need these forever chemicals in their gear. Yet they are forced by the inaction of the NFPA and now the failure of the Attorney General, to wear gear we know is made with carcinogenic forever chemicals into the super-heated environments of fires, where dermal absorption is exponentially greater.
The cancer rates in the fire service cannot continue to be brushed aside or attributed to other exposures. The PFAS and PFOA in bunker gear is an unnecessary exposure that manufacturers have been hiding from firefighters for years. The dangers were first hidden, then denied, until finally the deadly deceit was exposed by a persistent firefighter’s wife.
With respect Attorney General Healey, we believe it is incumbent upon you to act to protect these hard-working, dedicated professionals who protect all of us.
Please add all bunker gear manufacturers to this lawsuit.