TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – A statehouse bill aims to protect our firefighters.
House Bill 1219 would create a pilot program to collect and analyze blood samples from current and retired firefighters. Those samples would be tested to gauge the level of PFAS exposure that firefighters have.
PFAS chemicals, commonly referred to as forever chemicals, are toxic chemicals that are linked to cancer.
Firefighters selflessly run into burning buildings and homes to keep ones community safe. Dangerous chemicals are in the air of those scenes and are also in their gear.
PFAS is manufactured into firefighter turnout gear meaning exposure to these chemicals are impossible to avoid.
Terre Haute Firefighters Local 758 President Bob Malone said that this legislation is the first step to getting these toxins out of fire equipment.
“I’m all for it if they can come up with something that gives my union members safety,” Malone said.
Foam is used in certain fire responses and Malone said that PFAS is manufactured into that material as well.
As of now, there’s not really any options that can prevent exposure to PFAS. The best option to limit exposure as much as possible. Terre Haute Firefighters Local 758 Vice President Charles Kinsell said that they use mitigation techniques to limit exposure.
Limited time in the gear and having two sets of gear is the current system.
“The administration has done a good job of outfitting us with two sets of gear,” Kinsell said. “If we do soil a set through our firefighting or hazmat exposure, we’re able to go wash that and replace it with a clean set.”
Kinsell said that there’s no set of gear out there that does not contain PFAS. He’s confident though that a manufacturer could reverse that sometime in the future. This legislation is a step in the right direction, but Kinsell said manufacturing PFAS-free gear would take things a step further.
“It’s a good step that the people profiting and manufacturing these items are making a conscious effort to get them out of our protective gear,” Kinsell stated.
The bill passed through the Indiana House of Representatives and is awaiting action from the Senate.