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NFPA calls IAFF lawsuit over PFAS in bunker gear misguided, ill-informed, meritless

“NFPA’s process is the gold standard for standards development and involves a proven, consensus-based approach,” said Vice President Lorraine Carli


NFPA’s Standard 1971 establishes minimum levels of protection. The process for updating the protective gear standard is currently open.

By Leila Merrill

QUINCY, Mass. — An NFPA spokesperson responded recently to a lawsuit over PFAS in bunker gear brought by the IAFF by calling the legal action misguided, ill-informed and meritless.

Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of outreach and advocacy, said in a statement, “the IAFF’s recent public comments about the lawsuit falsely portray NFPA, our standards development process, and the role the IAFF itself plays in that process.”

Carli also described her organization’s pride in its history of educating the fire service about firefighter cancer risks and its supporti of related legislation.

She went on to state the following (emphasis theirs):

“NFPA’s process is the gold standard for standards development and involves a proven, consensus-based approach:

  • NFPA is the neutral facilitator. We don’t create or dictate the provisions of a standard. That’s the job of technical committees, which are comprised entirely of expert volunteers. These dedicated individuals represent groups like consumers, government, industry and labor, including many representatives from the fire-fighting community.
  • NFPA technical committee members are well-respected experts who bring deep expertise to the standards development process. They work diligently to evaluate each and every recommendation submitted. The IAFF’s suggestion that these expert volunteers aren’t acting to make the best technical decisions based on the information presented to them devalues their inestimable contributions to the standards development process.
  • NFPA does not have, nor have we ever had, any special agreements or relationships with any company or organization involved in our standards development process. Every aspect of that process is publicly available, including the names and affiliations of committee members, how they vote and all actions taken. No more than one-third of any technical committee is represented by the same interest category. The IAFF’s suggestion that any group exerts undue influence over NFPA’s process is false and defamatory.
  • With the exception of NFPA employees, anyone in the world can propose changes to any standard, which the relevant technical committee must then review. At no point has the IAFF, or anyone else for that matter, recommended language to the technical committee that would prohibit the use of PFAS in firefighter protective gear.
  • The NFPA protective gear standard does not specify or require the use of any particular materials, chemicals or treatments for that gear. It does require a moisture barrier test to ensure the gear will protect the wearer. The manufacturer decides how to comply with that test. Even then, it’s entirely at the discretion of organizations and jurisdictions whether to use the standard.
  • In 2021, when an amendment was submitted into the standards process that would remove this test from the protective gear standard, it didn’t gain the support needed in the technical committee. In fact, the proposed amendment didn’t even receive a simple majority of the technical committee votes.
    For additional context that contradicts the IAFF’s claims, out of the approximately 12 technical committee members who represented the fire service, only two voted for the amendment that would remove the moisture barrier test. The balance of the committee members either voted against removing the test, abstained, or did not return a vote. Out of the seven manufacturers on the committee who voted on the amendment, four voted to approve the amendment to remove the test.
  • NFPA regularly updates its standards, and the balanced, transparent, open process for updating the protective gear standard is underway now.”

Read the association’s full statement here.

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