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Bill would require labels for firefighting gear with PFAS, even though none are PFAS-free

Firefighting clothing and helmets hanging on a wall.
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Flickr
A state House bill, HB 1341, wouldn’t allow Indiana fire departments to purchase gear unless it has a label stating whether or not it contains PFAS.

A state House bill, HB 1341, wouldn’t allow Indiana fire departments to purchase gear unless it has a label stating whether or not it contains PFAS. The harmful chemicals are used in firefighters’ clothing and other equipment to keep them dry.

Among other things, exposure to PFAS has been linked to kidney cancer, problems with the immune system and developmental issues in children. Mike Whited is vice president of the Professional Firefighters Union of Indiana.

“Cancer among firefighters is on the rise. We’re seeing more firefighters die of cancer every year than being killed in the line of duty," he said.

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Whited said a label would bring awareness to the issue and help distinguish old gear from new gear that doesn’t have PFAS. There’s only one problem — there’s no such gear on the market right now.

Whited said there are only a handful of companies that sell firefighting gear and all of them use PFAS. That’s why the national firefighters’ union is working to pass this kind of legislation in multiple states.

“To put pressure on the federal government to do some research and development and get these textile companies to start making PFAS-free gear," he said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Thiele at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

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Rebecca Thiele covers statewide environment and energy issues.