Reducing PFAS in Firefighters' Turnout Gear
Location: Nantucket and Fall River
Project Manager: Ayesha Khan and Jaime Honkawa, Nantucket PFAS Action Group
Partners: Nantucket Fire Department, Fall River Fire Department
Firefighters’ protective gear contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of chemicals associated with a variety of adverse health effects including immunotoxicity, liver and thyroid effects, and carcinogenicity.
The Nantucket PFAS Action Group brought together the Nantucket and Fall River Fire Departments to work on safer solutions to PFAS-containing firefighter gear. The project team worked to research and adopt low-PFAS firefighter gear, study the impacts of this replacement and educate firefighters about PFAS and safer alternatives. Working with the Nantucket and Fall River Fire Departments, the project team shared information with firefighters, fire marshals, unions and cancer prevention groups in Massachusetts. The team created fact sheets and used social media to share information on PFAS and safer alternatives.
The Nantucket Fire Department purchased low-PFAS firefighter gear and worked with researcher Dr. Courtney Carignan to assess the impact of shifting to the new gear. In March 2022, firefighters from Nantucket, Fall River, and Hyannis gathered at the Nantucket Fire Station to participate in the Firefighter Turnout Gear PFAS Study. Participants provided skin wipe and blood samples to Dr. Carignan before and after training drills using both the old and the new protective gear. The research was designed to empower firefighters to identify the questions that they considered most important, and the results will help to identify opportunities to keep firefighters safe.
3/28/22: Inquirer & Mirror - Firefighters embark on PFAS turnout gear study
3/29/22: Nantucket Current - Island firefighters embark on pioneering PFAS study
3/31/22: Inquirer & Mirror - Study gauges impact of PFAS in firefighters’ turnout gear
4/3/22: NPR Cape, Coast & Islands - Local firefighters fear their gear is poisoning them. Now they’re teaming up to find out
4/8/22: Cape Cod Times - Hyannis Fire joins Fall River and Nantucket in PFAS study
4/11/22: The Herald News - Can PFAS in firefighter gear cause cancer? Fall River and Nantucket team up for science
This page updated Thursday June 23 2022
The project team worked to educate firefighters about PFAS and safer alternatives. View and download the fact sheets.