Jessica Sieff | June 25, 2020
Firefighters face occupational hazards on a daily basis. Now, new research shows they face additional risk just by gearing up.
Fabric used for firefighter turnout gear tested positive for the presence of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), according to the study published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters, led by Graham Peaslee, professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame. Peaslee embarked on a more extensive study, after initial tests on gear samples showed significantly high levels of fluorine.
“When we ran our initial tests, the fluorine content was so high, there was little question as to whether or not we’d find PFAS in a larger sample of gear,” said Peaslee. “Our primary concern — as is always the case when it comes to these particular chemicals — became how much of it is coming off the gear and getting into the environment?”
Peaslee’s team tested more than 30 samples of used and unused personal protective equipment (PPE) from six specialty textile manufacturers in the United States and found them to be treated extensively with PFAS or constructed with fluoropolymers, a type of PFAS used to make textiles oil and water resistant.
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