A firefighters union and a chiefs association are both warning members that the protective gear firefighters wear poses a health risk because it can contain PFAS, synthetic chemicals associated with issues such as an increased risk of liver and kidney cancer.
PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are often referred to as "forever chemicals" because they’re nearly impossible to destroy. They’re able to resist stains, grease and water, so are used to make products such as workout clothing, raincoats and firefighters' turnout gear, which is designed to block both moisture and heat.
In addition to certain cancers, PFAS have also been linked to risks of low birth weight, high cholesterol and thyroid disease.
So on Tuesday, the International Association of Fire Fighters, or IAFF, and the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association advised firefighters to wear turnout gear only when absolutely necessary, in order to reduce their exposure to the chemicals.