Firefighters face hurdles in quest for PFAS-free gear

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“Firefighters want the option to wear protective gear that doesn’t contain toxic chemicals. The only problem? The very garment manufacturers whose gear contains PFAS sit on the standard-setting committee they must convince.

But purchasing turnout gear without PFAS is nearly impossible because rules from the National Fire Protection Association require some fabrics used in the gear to withstand 40 consecutive hours of harsh ultraviolet light, and only textiles containing PFAS are able to pass that test (Greenwire, Feb. 16).

A vote to remove the test is ongoing, with one key committee tally set for tomorrow.

Newsome’s paper concluded that ultraviolet light contributes to the degradation of moisture barrier fabrics and recommended NFPA create a standard where only moisture barriers are exposed to artificial light. But it also divulges that a statistical analysis of the various tests “did not show significant results.”

That raises questions about why NFPA chose to adopt a standard based on a study without statistically significant findings.

“This does not support the use of the light degradation for the moisture barrier,” said Kyla Bennett, science policy director at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, who represents some firefighters concerned by PFAS in their gear.”

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