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Mass. congressional report lists 30 proposals to decrease PFAS prevalence

Rich MacKinnon Jr., president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, wants the National Fire Protection Association to ban the use of PFAS in fire gear


Photo/Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts

Amy Sokolow
Boston Herald

BOSTON — A new report by a task force studying PFAS, or “forever chemicals” commonly found in nonstick cookware, some clothing and firefighter gear, is being praised by the firefighting community.

“It was really shocking, both through testimony that we heard and coming to understand that PFAS is in all of the turnout gear that is used by our firefighters, and with the increase of PFAS in gear, we’ll also see increases in cancer rates,” said state Rep. Kate Hogan, D-Stow, co-chair of the committee.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are added to products to make them water-, grease- and stain-resistant, but they persist in the environment and humans’ bodies, and can cause a myriad of health effects including kidney and liver disease, immune system suppression, birth defects and cancer. PFAS have been detected in water systems throughout the state.

After nine public hearings over the past several months, the committee issued 30 recommendations across eight broad strategy areas. Those eight areas include funding PFAS detection and remediation, supporting environmental justice communities, phasing out PFAS in consumer products, expanding private well testing for PFAS and supporting firefighters and local fire departments.

Firefighters from advocacy groups across the state testified throughout the hearing process for the task force, which Hogan called “really moving and incredibly informed.”

Fire Marshal for the state’s Department of Fire Services Peter Ostroskey served on the task force. “We know that we’re exposing firefighters to carcinogens,” he said, adding that the firefighting community is also concerned about its environmental impacts.

“Large quantities of PFAS exist in our fire gear, and these forever chemicals have been linked to many cancers,” said Rich MacKinnon, Jr., president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts. “This report is a step in the right direction to keeping firefighters healthy. We now look to the National Fire Protection Association to make the needed changes and ban PFAS from our gear.”

By one estimate, as many as 68% of firefighters develop cancers, compared to 22% of the general population.

State Sen. Julian Cyr, D- Truro, also noted that Massachusetts would be “one of only a handful of other states,” including Maine and California, that would implement a consumer ban on PFAS products, which would be phased out by 2030, and labeled earlier than that as containing the chemical.

Hogan said legislators are pursuing “multiple legislative opportunities” through multiple bills to advance these recommendations. She and Cyr noted that both the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Public Health have received significant funding increases, which may bolster these efforts.


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