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Dingell Leads Introduction of Bipartisan Legislation to Remove PFAS from Firefighter Gear

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) along with Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Sam Graves (R-MO), Tom Kean, Jr. (R-NJ), Dina Titus (D-NV), Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY), Glenn Ivey (D-MD), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) today introduced the bipartisan Protecting Firefighters and Advancing State-of-the-Art Alternatives Act (PFAS Alternatives Act), to support development of next-generation PFAS-free turnout gear for firefighters and better protect firefighters from the dangers of their work. 

Recent studies have shown that all three layers of fire fighter turnout gear contain Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), a class of fluorinated chemicals known as “forever chemicals.” PFAS chemicals are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic, and are linked to harmful human health effects, including reproductive and developmental harms, weakened immune systems, and cancer – the leading cause of firefighter death.

“Firefighters’ jobs are already dangerous enough without worrying about the long-term health risks of being exposed to dangerous PFAS in their turnout gear,” said Dingell. “The PFAS Alternatives Act will remove this unnecessary occupational hazard and help protect firefighters as they work every day to protect us.”

“Firefighters engage in high-risk work to keep us all safe, and we have a responsibility to do all we can to protect them,” said Bonamici. “The PFAS Alternatives Act will speed up the development of turnout gear for firefighters that is free from dangerous PFAS chemicals and promote safer practices. I’m grateful to be working on this bipartisan legislation with my colleagues.”

“America’s firefighters charge into danger to save the lives of others,” said Graves. “This bipartisan legislation will help develop the next generation of firefighting gear to keep them safe—while they work to protect our families, our communities, and our country.”

“The health and safety of firefighters and those who keep our communities safe should be a priority for all of us,” said Kean. “These brave men and women risk their lives to protect us, and it is our duty to provide them with the safest possible gear. I am proud to co-lead the PFAS Alternative Act, to ensure that firefighter gear is free from harmful chemicals that pose long-term health risks. We owe it to our firefighters to prioritize their well-being and to equip them with the highest quality gear.”

“Firefighters put their health and safety on the line every day to protect our communities. They run in as others run out,” said Titus. “They shouldn't have to worry about hazardous substances in their own turnout gear. I'm working with my colleagues to support the development of next-generation gear that is more resistant to soot and other chemicals while eliminating exposure to dangerous toxins like PFAS.”

“Firefighters go above and beyond day after day to save the lives of their neighbors, and it is vital that these brave community protectors are equipped with the highest quality gear to help them effectively carry out their mission,” said D’Esposito. “As ex-Chief of the Island Park Fire Department, I am particularly glad the issue of firefighter safety is being addressed through legislative action in this Congress via legislation I have co-sponsored, and I will continue to do everything in my power to safeguard my brothers and sisters in the fire service from dangerous ‘forever chemicals’ found in outdated protective gear.”

“First responders deserve first rate gear.  They put their lives on the line every day to save ours.  We must not make those who risk their lives wear even riskier equipment and handle even more dangerous materials,” said Ivey. “PFAS are directly linked to cancer.  And as a kidney cancer survivor, I know the hardship, uncertainty and fear any family would experience being exposed to cancer causing materials.  This bill will save our firefighters from this exposure and is a good way to show our appreciation to the men and women who are ready to rush into danger when others dodge it.”

“Firefighters are heroes in communities across the nation, and we owe it to them to prioritize their health and safety,” said Fitzpatrick. “As co-chair of both the PFAS Task Force and the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, I am proud to lead this bipartisan effort to streamline the development of high-quality gear for our firefighters on the frontlines that is free of harmful ‘forever chemicals,’ further protecting them as they engage in high-risk situations to keep our families safe.”

The PFAS Alternatives Act would:
- Accelerate the development of PFAS-free turnout gear through research, development, and testing of PFAS-free turnout gear materials.
- Facilitate the development of safer turnout gear materials that reduces the dangers firefighters face, including enhanced protection against primary and secondary exposure to particulates and byproducts of combustion; reduced maintenance that includes contamination resistance and greater ease of cleaning; visible warning indicators to alert firefighters to hazardous exposures or the need for decontamination; and consideration of body composition in turnout gear design.  
- Support guidance and training for firefighters on best practices for reducing harmful exposures through the proper wearing, cleaning, and caring for next-generation turnout gear.
- Involve the firefighting industry in the development process by requiring grant applicants to utilize the leadership, experience, and knowledge of firefighters to ensure the next-generation turnout gear will be both effective and practical for the everyday demands of firefighting. 

The PFAS Alternatives Act would authorize $25 million annually for each of fiscal years 2024 through 2028 to support the development of new materials, and an additional $2 million annually to support guidance and training.

The PFAS Alternatives Act is endorsed by the International Association of Fire Fighters and Globe Manufacturing Company, a New Hampshire-based turnout gear manufacturer.

“Cancer is the number one killer of fire fighters, and the IAFF will pursue all means to drive the disease from our ranks. For too long, fire fighters have been needlessly exposed to cancer every day simply by putting on the protective gear necessary to respond to emergencies in our communities," said IAFF General President Edward Kelly. "Chemical companies, who have known for years about the cancer-causing properties of PFAS, have seen increased earnings while fire fighters face repeated exposure to toxins directly linked to illness and death. The PFAS Alternatives Act can change this sad fact by putting fire fighters – not corporate interests – at the center of the research for next-generation gear, guaranteeing we have a voice in developing the products we rely on for safety. Our membership is grateful to Reps. Dingell, Graves, Kean, Bonamici, D’Esposito, Ivey, Fitzpatrick, and Titus, and we applaud their courage in sponsoring this bill. Our work continues, and the full weight of the IAFF will be used to ensure its passage into law.” 

“Globe applauds and supports the outstanding bipartisan leadership of Representatives Debbie Dingell, Sam Graves, Suzanne Bonamici, Tom Kean, Jr., Dina Titus, Anthony D’Esposito, Glenn Ivey, and Brian Fitzpatrick for their commitment to develop innovative, next-generation materials for firefighter turnout gear and address the demand for PFAS-free materials,” said Bob Apel, Globe’s Chief Operating Officer. “Globe looks forward to continuing its long-term advocacy efforts working with congressional champions, the International Association of Fire Fighters, and other stakeholders to promote this investment in innovation and pass the PFAS Alternatives Act.” 

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