Bill targets PFAS examination, firefighter exposure

Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Bill Posey (R-FL) have introduced a measure they said is designed to examine per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and firefighter exposure to the chemicals.

The Guaranteeing Equipment Safety for Firefighters Act of 2020 requires the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to work with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to examine the prevalence of PFAS in personal protective equipment worn by firefighters; the conditions and extent PFAS chemicals are released into the environment through normal use of firefighting equipment; and the relative risk of PFAS exposure faced by firefighters.

“In order to reduce the serious risk to our firefighters, we must first understand the means and the frequency at which firefighters are being exposed to these dangerous chemicals,” Perlmutter said. “These brave men and women put their lives on the line every day for our communities, and we must do everything we can to protect them in return.”

PFAS chemicals are commonly used on firefighting gear to make them more water and oil-resistant. According to the International Association of Fire Fighters, however, research has determined PFAS exposure can lead to an increased risk of cancer, the leading cause of death among firefighters.

“The more we know about the presence of PFAS in the products we manufacture, the better we will be able to protect consumers and public health,” Posey said. “First responders such as firefighters sometimes face dangerous conditions and their safety is a priority.”