Yesterday, we reported on a new study released that suggests that the personal protective gear (PPE) that firefighters wear when combating fires may be a source of PFAS exposure to the firefighters who wear the turnout gear. The article, “Another Pathway for Firefighter Exposure to Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances: Firefighter Textiles”, Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett. 2020 (Graham, Peaslee F., et al.), was published the last week of June 2020. Now, just days later, two U.S. Congressmen – Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Bill Posey (R-FL) – introduced legislation to study the prevalence and concentration of PFAS in the personal protective equipment worn by firefighters.
The Guaranteeing Equipment Safety for Firefighters Act of 2020 would require the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to work in cooperation with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to examine 1) the prevalence of PFAS in personal protective equipment worn by firefighters, 2) the conditions and extent PFAS chemicals are released into the environment through normal use of firefighting equipment, and 3) the relative risk of PFAS exposure faced by firefighters. The final report will include recommendations on additional research or technical improvements to firefighters’ personal protective equipment to avoid unnecessary exposure to PFAS chemicals. The bill would also establish a grant program at NIST to advance the development of safe alternatives to personal protective equipment containing PFAS.
Companion legislation, S. 2525, introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) in 2019, unanimously passed the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in November 2019. The aims of both bills are very similar in nature; however, the bill introduced today now has support by way of at least one scientifically published study on the issue of PFAS and PPE.
Manufacturers and distributors of firefighting PPE, as well as townships, cities, and municipalities that have fire departments, need to pay close attention to the latest study and legislation, as well as the follow up studies that are sure to come. While many are searching for firefighting foam products that have PFAS substitutes due to the studies and press surrounding this product, it is doubtful that any entity has yet considered finding replacements for firefighting PPE for the reasons that Peaslee’s article delineates. Prudent risk management would advise that, at this point, at the very least this subject be closely watched by all those affected.
CMBG3 Law is following judicial, legislative, and administrative developments relating to PFAS. More information about the services we can provide, including risk assessments, to ensure your business is ready for any intersection with these substances can be found on our PFAS Litigation page.
Our attorneys have been at the forefront of PFAS issues, including giving presentations as to the future waves of litigation stemming from PFAS issues. For more information, please contact any of our PFAS – Toxic Torts Team: Jessica Deyoe, Suzanne Englot, Alexandra Fraher,or John Gardella.