Statement In Support of HB3661 by Diane Cotter with Supporting Text from Dr. Graham Peaslee
September 24, 2019
Dear Representatives and distinguished panel members and guests, thank you for the opportunity to hear our statement today. Thank you to the over 80 representatives who have co sponsored this bill.
Thank you to the President Richard MacKinnon of PFFM, President Local 1009 Mike Papagni, and President Fall River 1314 Jason Burns, Legislative Agent Paul Jacques, and to every PFFM Local who voted unanimously in May of 2018 to support and this legislation.
- We are hear because on September 14, 2015 my husband was promoted to Lt of the Worcester Fire Department. On October 19, 2015, he was diagnosed with cancer. His career was over.
- He is one of the thousands of firefighters with occupational cancer.
- 67% of firefighters will get cancer. Those are unheard of numbers in ANY occupation. In the fire service we have been groomed to believe our cancers are from ‘toxic smoke’ aka ‘products of combustion’. Today we want to you to protect us from the products of deception.
- The fire service is supported heavily by manufacturers 3M, DuPont, Chemours, Lion, Globe, W.L. Gore, etc, who are immersed in every aspect of firefighter cancer outreach, research, symposiums, and prevention.
- These same manufactures of turnout gear are also in many cases, rotating members of the 12–16 member panel of ‘voting members’ of NFPA 1971 (see www.nfpa.org ) for Standards of Structural FireFighting Turnout Gear. These members range from Special Experts, to Firefighters, to Manufacturers, and the like. Every aspect of firefighter turnout gear is met with years (and decades) of scrutiny. From the balance of a helmet to the with of reflective tape to the microns of permeation of the welt of a fabric. Everything that is, except, the chemical coatings of FF turnout gear. Not once, in the 20 years of the manufactures knowledge of the harm of these chemicals did they warn us of PFOA while voting members of NFPA. They did however, warn their shareholders that any legislation to curtail PFOA would effect their profit margins as far back as the 2007 DuPont filings as seen here in the DuPont Shareholders Right to Know: https://www.healthandenvironment.org/uploads-old/DuPont_Shareholders_Know_More.pdf
- In 2017 I discovered the European Union was transitioning to non PFOA PPE (personal protection ensembles). https://cswab.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Industrial-Fire-Journal-Six-year-PFOA-Reprieve-for-Gear-2015.pdf
- At that time I began my research on PFOA. I learned it was a carcinogen. That in 1992 DuPont, the makers of the chemical coatings of our gear, and the Nomex and Kevlar fibers of our gear, knew that PFOA caused testicular cancer in their own lab animals. Testicular cancer is the number one cancer in the fire service. Please see full history here of the testing and studies known by DuPont and 3M regarding the health effects of PFOA. http://www.fluoridealert.org/wp-content/pesticides/effect.pfos.class.timeline.htm
- After 1600 (at last count over 2 years ago) attempts to email, call, text, message fire officials, leaders, scientists, advocates, fire labor, fire safety, fire chiefs, in regards to what was known here about the actions of Europe, not one reply came that could tell us we were aware and acting on the same carcinogen found in turnout gear.
- It was at that time Local 1314 President Jason Burns reached out to me to send him everything I knew about what was happening in Europe. I did and he began his own investigation.
- Still searching for answers we found not one manufacturer would provide the chemical composition of our chemical coatings in turnout gear. While the names were innocuous such as ‘Super Shelltite’ and ‘Super Firefighter Water Resistant Coating’ we were no closer to the chemical makeup.
- Only one individual answered the call to help determine the chemical makeup of our turnout gear. Nuclear physicist Dr Graham Peaslee of Notre Dame. In 2017 I sent him samples of a set of 2004, new never worn turnout gear. The results were so staggering in content of PFAS that they had to be tallied in ‘volume’. Not in the standard ppt, ppb, ppm. Dr Peaslee then went on to have that set of samples commercially tested. The 2004 testing results showed staggering amounts of PFOA, and other ‘long chain PFAS’ known to be more dangerous.
- Immediately manufacturers began denouncing the scientist, the housewife, and the environmental attorney Robert Bilott who was also advocating for firefighter PFAS testing and studies in this 196 page document to EPA, CDC/ATSDR, and then AG Jeff Sessions from 2017:
- My husband and I would wrongly think that by simply telling the IAFF, the IAFC, or NFPA, that the matter would be handled swiftly and thoroughly and we would ease back into our lives.
- I COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MORE WRONG. Paul and I knew we would have to fund a study that would cost thousands to get the diagnostics of the ppe we were seeking. We began sending emails, and thankfully Kathy Crosby Bell of Last Call Foundation met Paul and I here in Boston at Florian Hall. We had a very long discussion and she brought our issue to her BOD. LCF agreed to fund in part the study with Notre Dame of a span of 20 years of turnout gear. This would be unheard of. No one had ever tested the chemical coatings in firefighter turnout gear.
- We began our grassroots, underground national effort of collecting gear both new and used from firefighters from Boston to California to send to Dr Peaslee.
- Over the last two years of this project the ACC, DuPont, Lion, Globe, Gore all tout that they have transitioned to the new ‘safe’ C6 chemistry for turnout gear. What each of them omits, and what they know, is that there is a PFAS ‘precursor’ that is used in textiles. This precursor, as Dr Peaslee’s results will explain, will degrade to FORM PFOA IN HOURS TO DAYS. And, while telling us if PFOA is present it is only there as a byproudcut of production and only in ‘trace amoutns’. These are not trace amounts. We are talking in the parts per million of these chemicals.
- Northeastern University hosted the PFAS Confernce this past June. Dr Linda Birnbaum, leading toxicologist in the nation, of NIEHS and Dr Philippe Grandjean of Harvard Chan School of Public Health, advised that nondetectable amounts of this chemical family are hazardous to health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/curbing-the-use-of-forever-chemicals/
- In May of 2019, the response to Attorney Robert Bilott’s nationwide class action of Fire Chief Kevin Hardwick v 3M, DuPont, Chemours, was met by the response of the manufacturers of our gear and our AFFF that ‘he can’t prove the PFAS in Chief Kevin Hardwick’s blood is ‘their pfas’…… https://firstname.lastname@example.org_20335/reply-in-support-of-defendantsjoint-motion-to-dismiss-101a0a02002a
- So while ACC is here to tell you we are not wearing PFOA, and as they tout their coatings in firefighter turnout gear as a safe accomplishment, I am telling you that firefighters have been led to believe by the for-profit corporations ACC represents, that the new C6 replacement chemicals are perfectly safe by industry sponsored health studies and mega millions in lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill to ensure their stronghold on the textile industry for these chemicals.
- Firefighters been lied to by the same manufactures that immerse themselves in ever aspect of firefighter cancer prevention, yet last week at the House Oversight Committee on ‘The Devil They Knew’, Rep Debbie Wasserman Schwartz asked 3M, DuPont and Chemours if they had any responsibility to the firefighters and veterans of this nation for their PFAS chemicals in our AFFF and our PPE. They replied they did not. This was just 3 weeks after they were the sponsors of the IAFF Cancer Summit in Nashville, Tennessee.
- Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) also had harsh words for the companies, stating that they “are playing into our national emergency.” Referring to the use of PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam, she added: “You have sickened our first responders and our members of our military, and I don’t know how you sleep at night.”
- We have no replacements. Can you imagine being the firefighter who will don this gear knowing they are touching a known carcinogen, a endocrine disruptor in amounts so staggering our nuclear physicist Graham Peaslee has yet to see anything like it in his 30 years.
- Commonwealth of Mass cannon wait for EPA, to protect us. While we await the NDAA passing which will classify PFAS as a Hazardous Substance, we ask that Massachusetts act now to pass the strongest legislation in the nation on firefighter PFAS chemicals in PPE.
- We must have your full and immediate support to pass this legislation as written by Representative Jim Hawkins, with the support of call, carrer, and military firefighters across the state, and the nation.
- Please view www.yourturnoutgearandpfoa.com for chronology of events of this issue.
Thank you for hearing us today,
Diane and Paul Cotter
Originally published at https://medium.com on September 24, 2019.