A bill currently going through the California legislature seeks to halt the manufacturing, selling and distributing of firefighting foam containing intentionally added per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The bill also seeks to mandate that anyone who sells firefighter personal protective equipment (PPE) containing intentionally added PFAS to provide a written notice to the purchaser stating the PPE contains PFAS chemicals.
The bill, in its current form, would establish exemptions from the requirement that firefighting foam be PFAS-free, requiring the State Fire Marshal to impose a fee on anyone applying for a waiver.
PFAS chemicals fail to break down when introduced to the environment and are known as “forever chemicals,” according to a press release from California State Senator Ben Allen.
“Our firefighters put their lives on the line to defend our communities and we know that with climate change, they will face even greater risks as wildfires worsen. We cannot stand by and allow them to face increased exposure to toxic chemicals that can be easily and affordably replaced,” Allen said. “We must act quickly to protect firefighters from this unnecessary hazard. And as our communities brace themselves for ongoing fire risk, we must shield them from even further damage from drinking water contamination.”
The press release states that PFAS have been linked to infertility, delayed puberty, kidney and liver damage, cancer and immune system toxicity, claiming that the chemicals contaminate our bodies, water, air and food. Evidence that the PFAS perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is possibly carcinogenic to humans has been known since at least a 1983 study found that giving rats high doses of PFOA was associated with testicular tumors.
“Firefighters are on the front line of toxic chemical exposures, including from PFAS chemicals present in firefighting foam,” said Breast Cancer Prevention Partners’ senior policy strategist Nancy Buermeyer. “This is a problem because toxic PFAS chemicals have been linked to numerous health impacts, including breast cancer – a huge concern for women firefighters. These heroes risk their lives every day to save others, now it’s our time to protect them by getting PFAS out of firefighting foams!”
“The use of PFAS in firefighting foams poses an unacceptable additional health risk to our firefighters and especially those working at airports and federal installations,” said California Professional Firefighters’ president Brian K. Rice. “We know there are alternatives that do not pose the same exposure risk or potentially devastating public health effects. It is time to phase out the use of PFAS in firefighting foams.”