Study: High PFAS blood levels in firefighters

Firefighters can be exposed to PFHxS and other PFAS chemicals from firefighting foam, exposure from contaminated PPE, managing PFAS foam wastes and contaminated fire stations


By FireRescue1 Staff 

WASHINGTON D.C. — IPEN scientists concluded a PFAS study revealing that there is "unequivocal evidence" that firefighters using chemicals containing PFAS to fight fires have high levels of toxic chemicals in their blood. 

According to a press release, IPEN, a non-profit network of public interest groups, published a white paper detailing the results from the study that found "unequivocal evidence from recent studies that firefighters using aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) have unacceptably elevated blood levels of both PFHxS and PFOS."

Firefighting foam covers the scene of a crash. (Photo/U.S. Navy)
Firefighting foam covers the scene of a crash. (Photo/U.S. Navy)

The study said PFHxS is "extremely persistent, exhibits long-range transport, it is more bio-accumulative and hazardous in humans than PFOS."

Firefighters can be exposed to PFHxS and other PFAS chemicals from firefighting foam, exposure from contaminated PPE, managing PFAS foam wastes and contaminated fire stations.

"Our firefighters and first responders are already asked to put themselves in harm's way virtually every day," EWG Senior Scientist David Andrews, Ph.D., said. "Forcing them to use firefighting foams containing dangerous chemicals when there are alternatives that work puts their long-term health at unacceptable risk."

Unfortunately, the alternatives to PFOA and PFOS have the same health risks. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention performed an analysis and linked substitutes for PFOA and PFOS, such as Gen-X and PFBS, with serious health problems. 

The study also backs Congress' efforts to end the military's use of firefighting foams made with PFAS. The House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2020 terminate the use of these foams by 2023. The bill also ends the military use of PFAS in food packaging, discharge of PFAS into water supplies and has set a deadline for a PFAS drinking water standard. It also requires the cleanup of legacy PFAS pollution. 

 

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