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Firefighters Rally to Ban Cancer-Causing Chemicals in Protective Gear

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Photo by Matt C on Unsplash

San Francisco Firefighters Local 798 held a rally to support legislation banning the use of Carcinogenic PFAS Chemicals in Firefighting Protective Clothing.

Cancer is a leading cause of death for firefighters. Not only are firefighters repeatedly exposed to numerous toxic substances and chemicals related to everyday emergency responses, but recent studies have also shown that all three layers of firefighter turnout gear contain Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), a class of fluorinated chemicals known as “forever chemicals” which have been linked to cancer and other serious health effects.

These exposures lead to a significantly higher rate of cancer among firefighters than the general population. In fact, the cancer risk for firefighters is so high that the International Association for Research on Cancer has declared the profession of firefighting itself to be a Group 1 carcinogen that is known to cause cancer and be harmful to the health of humans. Tragically, more than 300 active duty and retired San Francisco Firefighters have died from cancer-related causes since 2006.

Following the rally, Supervisors Peskin and Safai will introduce groundbreaking legislation calling for the San Francisco Fire Department to seek PFAS-free turnout gear and begin retiring turnout gear containing PFAS as soon as possible so that by June 30, 2026, the SFFD will no longer use firefighter personal protective equipment containing intentionally added PFAS chemicals.

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