Read the full article by Pat Elder (Military Poisons)

… “Diane’s husband and high school sweetheart, Paul Cotter, was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer in November of 2014. The doctors said he needed surgery or he wouldn’t survive.  It sent lightning and thunder through them.

Paul worked as a Worcester firefighter up until the day before his January, 2015 surgery. It was the end of his firefighting career.

Diane and Paul had known firefighters in the Worcester Fire Department who had also been afflicted with various cancers, including many with prostate cancer. It was a haunting thought that needed time to sort out –  something for Diane’s “to do” list.

In the clearing stands a boxer.

Paul has a list of three dozen firefighters in his department with various cancers, especially prostate cancer. It wasn’t until 2017 when Diane began to consider the possibility that per-and poly fluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS might be causing firefighters to get sick.

Erin Brockovich,  another heroic Simon-Thurber favorite, first told Diane about the potential for the PFAS-laden turnout gear to cause cancer. Diane’s ‘to do’ list grew exponentially. She had a host of serious questions for the makers of the turnout gear, scientists working on PFAS, local, state, and federal lawmakers, union officials and various firefighting associations. 

She was stonewalled by everyone. ‘What could this gal know?’ Diane was summarily dismissed, but, like Rex, she never let go.

Turnout gear manufacturers refused to provide Diane information on the chemical composition of their protective clothing.  It’s like that with the foam, too. It’s ‘proprietary information’ companies like to say. That may be because they don’t want their poisons to be easily identified in the event regulatory agencies started – you know – regulating.

Diane figured this was a crucial component to proving her contentions. She reached out to many in the scientific community who didn’t have the time for her. ‘What could this gal know?’

Diane contacted Dr. Graham Peaslee, an experimental nuclear physicist at the University of Notre Dame, who said he’d try to help. Dr Peaslee discovered extremely high levels of PFAS in the turnout gear  – the most highly fluorinated textiles he’d ever examined. A subsequent 2020 peer-reviewed study from Peaslee that Diane helped to fund, confirmed his initial findings.

Peaslee said he expects future studies will uncover additional health concerns. He said it’s particularly concerning that the most prevalent cancers firefighters get, like leukemia and prostate cancer, are ones that arise from weakened immune systems. PFAS compounds in the turnout gear are known to be ‘endocrine disrupters’ that interfere with the body’s ability to fight disease. High PFAS levels in people have also been linked to poor Covid outcomes.” …