PFAS and Fire Fighter Turnout Gear
PFAS are a category of manufactured chemicals linked to cancer and other diseases.
PFAS is used in fire fighter turnout gear and poses an unnecessary occupational threat. As a result, in August 2022, the IAFF and the Metro Chiefs joined forces to alert members to the adverse health risks posed by PFAS in turnout gear, draw attention to the need for PFAS-free turnout gear, and recommend precautionary steps for members and departments until next-generation gear can be developed and put in use.
Member health and safety are non-negotiable. In January 2023, the IAFF announced it had retained three nationally recognized tort law firms to assist the union in its effort to end fire fighter cancer and remove PFAS from use in the fire service.
General President Edward Kelly announced at the Affiliate Leadership Training Summit that the IAFF has retained three nationally recognized law firms to change regulatory standards, demand PFAS-free gear, and be available to be retained by members and families seeking compensation for PFAS-related illness.
PFAS “forever chemicals” are found in fire fighter protective gear and have been linked to cancer, the leading cause of fire fighter death.
“We need to combat what is killing us,” said Kelly. “Cancer is the number one killer of fire fighters, and for years, corporate interests have put profits over our lives. It stops now. This initiative will accelerate our search for PFAS-free gear.”
The firms – Motley Rice LLC; Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC; and Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo P.C. – were selected to:
- Change the regulatory standards and systems that have enabled toxins in fire fighter protective turnout gear
- Demand that all turnout gear be replaced with PFAS-free alternatives
- Be available to be retained by members and their families to seek compensation for PFAS-related injuries
The independent firms – collectively known as PFAS Law Firms – have established a website, PFASLawFirms.com, for members seeking information on the effort.
“It’s an honor to be entrusted by the IAFF to be a part of their legal team charged with effecting change in current standards, promoting the replacement of PFAS-laden gear, and seeking justice on behalf of members riddled with cancer,” said Anne McGinness Kearse of Motley Rice LLC. “We do not take this responsibility lightly and are ready to pursue, on behalf of the IAFF and/or its members, all viable legal strategies to meet these challenges and bring about needed change.”
“Simmons Hanly Conroy is ready and dedicated to serve as the advocate for our brave fire fighters and the IAFF in their battle with cancers caused by PFAS,” said Jayne Conroy of Simmons Hanly Conroy.
“Sullivan Papain is honored to represent and support the IAFF as it works to protect the safety of its members and remove harmful substances from PPE,” said Nick Papain, a partner at Sullivan Papain. “Having served as general counsel to the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York Local 94 for nearly 40 years, we have dedicated much of our careers to supporting the well-being of fire fighters through advocacy, legislation, and litigation and look forward to doing the same for the IAFF and its members.”
“The health and safety of our members is non-negotiable, period,” said Kelly. “If manufacturers or regulatory groups refuse to acknowledge and work to remove these toxic chemicals from the protective gear fire fighters wear, our members have no other viable remedies than to challenge these practices in court. We will take this battle wherever we need to.
“This is the challenge of our generation – and I refuse to let it become a challenge for our children and their children,” he said. “The IAFF will do whatever is necessary to remove PFAS from our gear, protect the health of our members, and the well-being of our families.”