(WTAJ) – The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) filed a suit on Thursday, March 16 against the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) for imposing a testing standard.

The testing standard requires the use of carcinogens in firefighter protective gear. The case, International Association of Fire Fighters v. National Fire Protection Association, Inc., was filed in Norfolk County Superior Court in Dedham, Massachusetts. 

Toxic per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are found in firefighter bunker gear and have been linked to cancer, the leading cause of firefighter death. Nearly 75 percent of those honored at the 2022 Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial died of occupational cancer. 

The complaint seeks to hold the NFPA liable for its Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting (Standard 1971).

The standard, which establishes minimum levels of protection from thermal, physical, environmental, and biological hazards faced during firefighting, calls for using PFAS in the middle moisture barrier of firefighter bunker gear to satisfy the NFPA’s Ultraviolet Light Degradation Test.

The standards committee deliberately chose the time of exposure to UV light. A shorter exposure time would allow numerous other materials to pass, but a longer exposure time would allow no materials to pass. The set 40 hours is the threshold where only PFAS passes, meaning all firefighters must wear bunker gear laden with dangerous chemicals.  

“The very gear designed to protect fire fighters, to keep us safe, is killing us,” IAFF General President Edward Kelly said. “Standard 1971 needlessly requires the use of PFAS in fire fighter gear. Even when presented with independent science on the health and safety risks, the NFPA has refused to help save our lives. The IAFF has a duty to protect our members’ health and their families’ wellbeing.” 

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The IAFF has retained three nationally recognized law firms, Motley Rice LLC; Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC; and Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo P.C., in its effort to combat cancer in the fire service. The firms, collectively known as the PFAS Law Firms, are available to assist IAFF members made sick by PFAS exposure at work.