Station Pride Articles

PFAS/PFOA UPDATE: Conference Call with IAFF

This article is published on behalf of Diane Cotter of the Facebook Page Your Turnout Gear and PFOA
Diane works tirelessly to inform and educate firefighters of the potential dangers of chemically treated fabrics used in firefighting. The following is a synopsis of a conference call Diane Cotter and her husband, Ret. Firefighter Paul Cotter had with IAFF leadership.

We wish to give you an update on current events regarding the topic of

PFAS in the fire service and the issues we are involved in.

-Diane and Paul

On January 11th we received a message from Rich MacKinnon President of

PFFM, extending an invitation to speak to the IAFF.   I accepted without hesitation, and

on Tuesday, January 16th Paul and I sat at our dining room table and with a bit of
a pit in my stomach dialed into the conference number provided by Rich.
January 16, Conference Call with IAFF Discussion Highlights:
Paul and I wish to thank Rich for the opportunity to open the dialogue with IAFF publicly on this topic.
Pat Morrison, IAFF Assistant General President for Health, Safety, and Medicine.
Matt Vinci, IAFF Director of Education
Rich MacKinnon, President PFFM
Mike Pagagni President L1009 and IAFF IO,
Paul and myself. Were on the call.
Our conversation ran approximately 90 minutes, and we discussed the following:
Pat discussed the gravity of the issue within the fire service when the Station Pride article first hit and how it affected them in IAFF headquarters.  He went on to discuss some of the actions they have performed since that time which include researching and outreach to manufacturers.

We discussed the European Unions findings and their regulations of 25ppb PFOA and 1ppm PRECURSORS for the year 2020.

We discussed Dr. Roger Klein and his power-point presentation at the 2016 European Unions PPE Symposium.

We discussed the new ‘C6 technology and precursors that will form PFOA’.

We discussed Dr. Philippe Grandjean of Harvard School of Medicine and his explanation of the ‘new technology.’
We stressed the need to inform the IAFF body of their actions as the silence is confusing and concerning.  Pat stated he would be working on that.
I explained that every day my phone pings all day from chiefs, firefighters, local presidents, and Health & Safety officers, asking for the information regarding what is being taught in Europe.
We discussed the many forms of FF cancer and the studies done, the toxins, and briefly how we did things years ago.
Matt spoke about the similarities of this issue and the flame retardants, the work they have done to make legislation happen in that area and the work IAFF continues to perform on the state and federal levels in all areas of FF Cancer.
Mike spoke about what is being done on a state level regarding toxins and legislation.
We spoke about studies and research ongoing regarding firefighter cancer.
We spoke about the manufacturer’s method of minimizing this issue and pushing it back on ‘products of combustion’.  Also discussed were many toxins encountered in the profession,  asbestos, flame retardants, plastics, hydrogen cyanide.

At that point, Paul was very clear and said, “you understand we are not talking about products of combustion. We are talking about a toxin that was impregnated in our gear while they knew and we didn’t”.

We spoke about hard work and efforts the  IAFF body has performed on presumptive laws for firefighter cancers.
We reviewed the many findings I have regarding what the manufacturers knew and when they knew it. The manufacturer’s sin of omission while sitting on our NFPA, their complacency while preaching FF cancer to us while knowing they were under litigation for this toxin and telling their shareholders their bottom line will be adversely affected if restrictions on PFOA are implemented among other findings.
We discussed the need for teaching best practices of handling your current PPE as an immediate concern.
We discussed conflicts of interest.  Manufacturers big money and how it works in lobbying and its reach within the fire service.
We discussed concerns over past amounts of PFOA used and our push for dust studies in your stations.
We discussed AFFF’s toxicity,  and past practices while we were not fully aware how dangerous it was, now realizing the manufacturers did know the danger.
We discussed Robert Bilott’s lawsuit.
That he is fighting out front to bring studies and testing.  We spoke about his 195-page letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),  Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
That Robert Bilott is the authority on every aspect of this issue.
Pat said he will reach out to Rob Bilott.  Nothing could have made us happier than to hear that.
We spoke about PFOA regulations,  and how difficult and how long it takes to get the wheels of change moving in the EPA and legislation.
We discussed my outspokenness about IAFF.  That the many calls, emails, messages, and letters that went unresponded to were problematic to me.
We discussed warning labels and FEMSA.
We discussed this issue becoming a topic for 2019 cancer symposium.
We discussed the science community and how concerned they are regarding this issue.

We discussed the fabric test findings from Professor Peaslee from the University of Notre Dame.

We discussed Susan Shaw and her work on flame retardants.
We discussed Courtney Carignan and her availability to us on a moments notice.
We discussed Jeff Burgess and his work.
We discussed the many research papers done and Pat was aware and concerned of the high serum numbers of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in firefighters.
We discussed Mindi Messmer in NH and her assistance to us on this issue.
We discussed Congressman McGovern and his desire to act on this issue.
I advised after many months of research and seeing many conflicts of interest, omissions, and multilayers of knowledge of how dangerous these toxins were and are, that the issue prompted my request to ask for a  task force to investigate the issue covering  AFFF and PPE to the fire service.
We feel confident IAFF is now acting on this issue.
It’s important to relay that Pat Morrison has been researching the entire manufacturing process, from fabric making to the distribution and manufacturing.
For the first time in many months, we have been able to exhale.  The open discussion and the willingness of Pat, Matt, Rich and Mike seeking to learn more and Pat’s willingness to research and make this a topic of discussion for the 2019 Cancer Summit is huge.  There is no reason not to. The Europeans are speaking and teaching about it.  We should be as well.

It’s equally as important that health and safety officers seek information from IAFF on this issue.

About Mutual Aid (43 Articles)
Station-Pride is committed to providing high-quality content for our viewers. In order to do so, sometimes our contributors just aren't enough. This profile has been created to request mutual aid from other writers and authors in the fire service who are willing to share their knowledge with our followers. Please keep an eye out for guest contributions, and some with anonymous authors. Please keep in mind, Station-Pride contributors hold themselves to a very high level of professionalism. With that being said, these articles are un-edited and viewer discretion is advised.

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  1. Notre Dame University Pushes the Modern Fire Service to be Better. – Station Pride

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