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Firefighter Occupational Exposure: What are the Potential Sources and What Legal Recourse is Available?

The tools that keep firefighters safe and help them save lives are potential sources of serious illness. Regular use of hazardous chemicals and equipment like flame retardants and personal protective equipment (PPE) led to the classification of firefighting as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). It is a fact that firefighters are exposed to hazardous chemicals as part of their job duties. Ohio law recognizes the inherent dangers of being a firefighter and thus provides additional benefits for firefighters who contract cancer or a chronic illness. If you have been diagnosed with cancer or any other serious health condition, you may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

          Firefighters are particularly vulnerable to occupational exposure due to their use of flame retardants and turnout gear which may be made or treated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals,” which studies show cause serious health issues in humans, including several types of cancer.

Turnout Gear / PPE

          Standard turnout gear has an outer shell, a moisture barrier, and two to three layers of fabric. Unfortunately, PFAS are often found in every layer of turnout gear, with higher concentrations in the outer two layers. Firefighters can be exposed to these chemicals through direct contact, or ingestion and inhalation as the equipment degrades. Due to industry standards, there is currently no firefighter turnout gear on the market that does not contain PFAS.

Firefighting Foam

Class B firefighting foams such as aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) can contain harmful “forever chemicals.” These chemicals are used because their longevity effectively fights flammable liquid fires from gasoline and oil. However, the persistence of PFAS means they do not break down in the human body and can cause severe health problems. Until recently, federal regulations required PFAS to be present in AFFF and are only now being phased out of the production process. Exposure to PFAS through firefighting foam can occur through direct contact and contaminated water sources.

Exposure to PFAS is linked to several kinds of cancer, as well as other health conditions, including:

  • High cholesterol
  • Thyroid disease
  • Liver damage
  • Asthma & allergies
  • Decreased fertility & birth defects

You may be eligible for workers' compensation if you or a loved one served as a firefighter and were diagnosed with cancer or any other health condition. Contact the attorneys at NRS Injury Law for assistance with legal action associated with occupational exposure to PFAS.

In situations like these, you need solid legal advice to understand your options and take action. NRS Injury Law is the largest workers’ compensation firm in Ohio, and we are ready to handle the most challenging cases for our clients. Call 855-GOT-HURT or fill out the online form for your free case evaluation. We don’t collect any fees unless you win.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
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