Every day at work for 15 years, Sean Mitchell, a captain in the Nantucket Fire Department, has put on the bulky suit that protects him from the heat and flames he faces on the job. But last year, he and his team came across unsettling research: Toxic chemicals on the very equipment meant to protect their lives could instead be making them gravely ill.
This week, Captain Mitchell and other members of the International Association of Fire Fighters, the nation’s largest firefighters’ union, are demanding that union officials take action. They want independent tests of PFAS, the chemicals in their gear, and for the union to rid itself of sponsorships from equipment makers and the chemical industry. In the next few days, delegates representing the union’s more than 300,000 members are expected to vote on the measure — a first.
“We’re exposed to these chemicals every day,” Captain Mitchell said.