BROCKTON (CBS) - More than a dozen retired and current firefighters from Brockton, Worcester, Norwood, Fall River and Boston have filed a federal lawsuit against 25 companies, saying the gear designed to protect them from fires is actually making them sick.
Among them is veteran firefighter Joe Marchetti who was deputy chief of the Brockton Fire Department.
"We wear it 75 percent of the time on shift, we want to be ready to respond to an emergency at all times," Marchetti told WBZ-TV.
But he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016, at first blaming the hazards of being exposed to toxins on the job.
"I know I'm in a dangerous profession. I can mitigate and calculate those dangers," he said.
What he didn't calculate was that chemicals known as PFAS that make the equipment water resistant and flame retardant, also cause adverse health effects like cancer. Back in December elevated PFAS levels were detected in his body, and he decided to join the lawsuit seeking damages.
"It could have been caused by chemicals in the gear that's supposed to protect me throughout my career and help me help others," he said.
It's been a 24-year career, rising through the ranks to deputy fire chief at the Brockton Fire Department. He married into a firefighting family; his son is also on the force. But it's now a career he has to retire from.
"I don't want to retire, but it's the best thing for my health going forward," he said.
According to the lawsuit the companies should have known the products they marketed and sold repeatedly exposed the firefighters to harmful chemicals.
"There was no warning, they didn't tell us the chemicals were in the gear," Marchetti said.
Now he worries fellow firefighters are still at risk and hopes the legal action will be a catalyst for change.
"I want my brother firefighters, my son, my younger brother to be safe knowing the gear meant to protect them isn't going to harm them," he said.
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