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Lawmakers Urge AG to Join Worcester Firefighters’ Lawsuit

By Tom Marino | December 19, 2023
Last Updated: December 19, 2023

WORCESTER – A majority of 24 state senators and 73 state representatives sent a letter to Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell on Monday to urge her to join the lawsuit filed by 10 Worcester firefighters against manufacturers of firefighter turnout gear treated with Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The lawsuit claims that these manufacturers sell PFAS-treated products to governments and firefighters despite knowing the extreme health dangers of PFAS exposure.

Eight of the firefighters who filed the lawsuit have been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Two received diagnoses of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Firefighter turnout gear, also known as bunker gear, is the personal protective equipment used by firefighters to protect them from extreme heat, flames, and harmful chemicals. Turnout gear includes the helmet, fire-resistant hood, jacket and pants, boots, gloves, breathing apparatus and other equipment used by firefighters.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, PFAS, often called “forever chemicals,” is a large, complex group of synthetic chemicals used in consumer products since the 1950s. Products such as non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and water-repellent clothing, some cosmetics, and firefighting foam contain PFAS. These chemicals break down slowly, if at all, in nature.

A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found PFAS in the blood of 97% of Americans. According to CompTox, a database maintained by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are 14,735 PFAS chemicals.

The letter by lawmakers to Campbell notes that when Governor Maura Healey was attorney general, her office sued PFAS manufacturers for violating Massachusetts law protecting drinking water and other consumer protection laws by selling firefighting foam containing PFAS to cities and towns across Massachusetts.

“Ask anyone how the majority of firefighter line-of-duty deaths occur — most will probably say smoke inhalation or on-call injury”, said Senator Michael Moore of the 2nd Worcester District. “The shocking truth is that from 2002 to 2019, cancer accounted for 66% of firefighter deaths, according to the International Association of Firefighters.”

Moore and 2nd Bristol District Rep. James Hawkins are leading the effort to urge the attorney general to join the lawsuit.

Other local senators that signed the letter include:

  • Sen. Robyn Kennedy (1st Worcester);
  • Sen. Peter Durant (Worcester and Hampshire);
  • Sen. Jacob Oliveira (Hampden, Hampshire and Worcester);
  • Sen. James Eldridge (Middlesex and Worcester); and
  • Sen. Ryan Fattman (Worcester and Hampden).

Local state representatives that signed the letter include:

  • Rep. Kimberly Ferguson (1st Worcester)
  • Sen. Jonathan Zlotnik (2nd Worcester);
  • Rep. Michael Kushmerek (3rd Worcester);
  • Reep. Natalie Higgins (4th Worcester);
  • Rep. Michael J. Soter (8th Worcester)
  • Rep. David Muradian (9th Worcester)
  • Rep. Brian Murray (10th Worcester)
  • Rep. Hannah Kane (11th Worcester);
  • Rep. Meghan Kilcoyne (12th Worcester)
  • Rep. James O’Day (14th Worcester);
  • Rep. Mary Keefe (15th Worcester);
  • Rep. David LeBoeuf (17th Worcester); and
  • Rep. Joseph McKenna (18th Worcester)

The manufacturers named in the case, filed on Feb. 15, 2022, are:

  • 3M Company;
  • Agc Chemicals Americas, Inc.;
  • Amerex Corporation;
  • Archroma U.S., Inc.,
  • Arkema, Inc.;
  • Buckeye Fire Equipment;
  • Carrier Global Corporation;
  • Chemguard, Inc.;
  • Dynax Corporation;
  • E. I. Du Pont De Nemours & Co.;
  • Fire-Dex, LLC;
  • Fire Service Plus, Inc.;
  • Globe Manufacturing Company LLC;
  • Honeywell Safety Products USA, Inc.;
  • Johnson Controls, Inc.;
  • Lion Group, Inc.;
  • Mine Safety Appliance Company LLC;
  • National Foam, Inc.;
  • PBI Performance Products, Inc.;
  • Perimeter Solutions, L.P.;
  • Stedfast USA, Inc.;
  • Tencate Protective Fabrics USA D/B/A Southern Mills Inc.;
  • The Chemours Company L.L.C.;
  • Tyco Fire Products, L.P.; and
  • W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc.

 

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