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Forever chemicals in protective gear could be killing Colorado firefighters

Firefighters react to knowledge that gear designed to protect them could be harmful
Firefighters react to knowledge that gear designed to protect them could be harmful 02:02

There aren't a lot of regrets Dave Foster has when it comes to his 25-year career in firefighting, but letting his kids touch his gear is one of them.

"When our kids first come to our firehouse to see what mom, dad does and, or uncle does for a living. The first thing we do is put them in our gear," said Foster. "Knowing (now) that our gear was contaminated, I would have never put my kids in that gear and take pictures with them."


According to a new report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), textiles used to manufacture protective coats and pants worn by firefighters contain measurable amounts of cancer causing PFAS and forever chemicals. 

It also found that firefighters' gear tends to release more chemicals the older and more beat up it gets. That is bad news for anyone wearing fire protective gear. Especially firefighters.


"Due to the extreme heat we're exposed to, our pores are open like a sponge. And the PFAS in our gear is degrading while we're wearing it and absorbing in our bloodstream as well," said Foster.

Foster is also the president of the Colorado Professional Firefighters he says learning that the gear designed to protect him and his friends could be responsible for killing them is a slap in the face.


"It was a revelation that that shook us to our core," said Foster.

He says the federal and state governments need to act to protect firefighters and their families.

Foster says there is protective gear worn by firefighter overseas that doesn't contain forever chemicals, but they won't pass safety testing standards here in the U.S. It's one of the many issues he has been working with lawmakers to address.

He is hopeful they can get some help from Congress eventually.

"We're making good strides and not fast enough, but we are making strides and we're doing this for the next generation. My son wants to be a firefighter, I want him to have better gear than I did," he said. 

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