Firefighters are esteemed individuals who fearlessly confront peril, entering hazardous environments to safeguard both human lives and valuable assets. However, a hidden threat lurks within this very profession—a class of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

For many decades, PFAS chemicals were praised for their efficacy. However, in recent years, the toxins have prompted significant apprehensions. These carcinogens have caused severe health ramifications for firefighters.

In this blog post, we will dive into the troubling legacy of PFAS in firefighting gear and foam. We will also explore the potential health risks for firefighters.

The Dangers of PFAS in Firefighting Equipment

As we delve into the silent killer lurking in firefighting gear and foam, it is crucial to understand the culprit behind this insidious threat: PFAS. These synthetic chemicals are prized for their ability to resist heat, oil, and water. Hence, they have found their way into the very equipment designed to protect our brave firefighters.

However, the convenience of PFAS comes at a terrible cost. These persistent substances present significant hazards to the well-being of frontline service personnel.

Occupational Hazard

A robust firefighting suit generally consists of three fire-resistant layers. Recent studies shed light on a potential occupational health hazard for firefighters. Their investigation revealed the presence of PFAS toxins within the textiles used in the outermost layers of firefighter turnout gear.

Furthermore, the research employed simulated wear-and-tear scenarios, mimicking the demanding environments firefighters endure. These simulations resulted in a significant increase in PFAS release from the materials.

The Health Risks of PFAS Exposure

The association between PFAS exposure and a myriad of severe health issues has been extensively documented. TorHoerman Law warns that these chemicals can increase the risk of certain cancers, such as colon, thyroid, and prostate cancer, among firefighters who have been exposed to PFAS-containing gear and foam.

Additionally, PFAS exposure has been associated with hormonal disruption, fertility issues, and a weakened immune system, leaving firefighters more vulnerable to illnesses and diseases.


As we continue to uncover the extent of the PFAS problem in firefighting equipment, we must confront this silent killer head-on. Ensuring the optimal health and well-being of our firefighters, who consistently face hazardous conditions in the line of duty, is paramount.

The Alarming Cancer Rates Among Firefighters

Due to their constant exposure to PFAS, firefighters face a significantly higher risk of developing certain cancers compared to the general population.

Statistics compiled by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) indicate a notable increase in cancer incidence and mortality rates within the firefighter community.

The analysis indicates a 9% and 14% increase in cancer risk and mortality, respectively, when compared to the general population. This concerning data highlights the critical imperative to confront the cancer crisis within the firefighting community.

Types of Cancers Linked to PFAS Exposure

Research has identified several types of cancers that are most commonly associated with exposure to PFAS in firefighting foam. Firefighters exhibit an elevated propensity for prostate cancer occurrence, in contrast to the broader demographic.

Kidney cancer: Studies have shown that firefighters have a 30% higher chance of kidney cancer.

Mesothelioma: Exposure to asbestos in older buildings during firefighting operations, combined with the potential effects of PFAS, may contribute to an increased risk of mesothelioma among firefighters.

These brave men and women, who have dedicated their lives to protecting others, are now fighting for their own lives.

Many affected have filed firefighter foam cancer lawsuits seeking compensation for military negligence and their deteriorating health. In addition to Veterans Affairs benefits, these lawsuits help the firefighters seek monetary benefits for economic and non-economic damages.

Challenges in Regulating PFAS in Firefighting Equipment

The complexities surrounding the regulation and replacement of PFAS in firefighting equipment pose significant challenges.

The absence of clear federal regulations for PFAS in firefighting gear and foam has resulted in varying state-level standards, posing challenges for firefighter safety.

Developing effective alternatives to PFAS is hindered by one very important fact. PFAS’s impeccable ability to withstand extreme heat and suppress fuel vapors has been difficult to replicate.

Fluorine-free foams (FFFs) have shown promise, but their performance can be affected by factors like water pressure, air temperature, and fuel type. Ongoing research is needed to optimize FFFs and ensure they meet the stringent performance requirements of NFPA 18 and UL 162 standards.


Even the latest “short-chain” PFAS alternatives, like GenX, exhibit concerning levels of persistence in the environment.

The destruction of PFAS requires incredibly high temperatures and specialized facilities. This makes the removal of traces embedded in buildings, soil, and waterways a daunting task.

Addressing these obstacles demands a collaborative endeavor involving all invested parties to uphold the well-being and safety of firefighters. Moreover, the development of effective, sustainable solutions for firefighting operations is also a pressing need.

Raising Awareness

Educating firefighters, their families, and the public about the potential consequences of PFAS exposure is essential to drive the adoption of safer practices and technologies.

Fire departments must institute thorough training initiatives encompassing the dangers associated with PFAS exposure. They should focus on:

  • Risks of PFAS,
  • Proper decontamination procedures, and
  • The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimize exposure.

The formulation of these initiatives necessitates collaboration with professionals specializing in occupational health. Furthermore, they must remain updated to incorporate the most recent scientific findings.

Advocates must engage with policymakers and regulatory agencies to push for stricter regulations on PFAS use in firefighting equipment. This may involve presenting evidence of the health risks associated with PFAS exposure, advocating for the adoption of PFAS-free alternatives, and supporting legislation that mandates the phase-out of PFAS in firefighting foams and gear.

Ultimately, advocating for change requires a sustained and collaborative effort from all stakeholders. They need to prioritize the transition to PFAS-free firefighting technologies.

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