NFPA responds to lawsuit filed over safety gear health concerns
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - The National Fire Protection Association is defending its organization following a lawsuit filed in Massachusetts last week by a firefighter’s union. The union claimed that NFPA’s testing standards require the use of PFAS, a known carcinogen, in firefighter gear.
The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) filing suit to remove “cancer-causing” PFAS chemicals from protective gear. Diane Cotter spearheaded the movement after her husband, who served 27 years with the Worcester Fire Department, was diagnosed with cancer.
“It’s shameful, absolutely shameful that America’s bravest have to go to this length to protect themselves,” Cotter explained.
Firefighters are regularly exposed to harmful carcinogens while battling fires, but the IAFF alleged that the very gear that’s supposed to protect them is also exposing them to dangerous chemicals.
“It’s alarming. We try and do everything we can to limit the amount of exposure to carcinogens,” said Northampton Assistant Fire Chief Andrew Pelis.
The IAFF is suing the National Fire Protection Association, a Quincy-based group that guides standards for protective gear, claiming their standard calls for PFAS to be infused into protective gear and arguing that the NFPA is heavily influenced by the industry that makes money off the standard. Those are claims an NFPA representative denied and told Western Mass News in a statement:
“The IAFF’s recent public comments about the lawsuit falsely portray NFPA, our standards development process, and the role the IAFF itself plays in that process. We won’t allow our organization, our people, or our valued volunteers to be disparaged or our long-standing process to be politicized by a meritless lawsuit.”
The statement went on to say that the gear standard does not specify or require any particular materials. It does require a moisture barrier test to ensure the gear is protective, but it’s the manufacturer that decides how to comply with the test. NFPA said anyone can propose changes to any standard for committee review, but at no point has the IAFF recommended new language to prohibit the use of PFAS in firefighter gear.
NFPA said it regularly updates its standards and a balanced, transparent process for updating the protective gear standard is underway now.
The union is seeking unspecified damages in the lawsuit.
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