Read the full article by Brad Petrishen (Telegram & Gazette)

“The nation’s largest fire union Monday announced a legal effort aimed at ending the use of toxic chemicals in turnout gear, an issue uncovered by the wife of a former Worcester fire lieutenant. 

The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), at a conference in Las Vegas, announced it has hired three legal teams on the issue of PFAS — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — in firefighter turnout gear. 

‘We need to combat what is killing us,’ IAFF General President Edward A. Kelly said in a news release. ‘Cancer is the number one killer of firefighters, and for years, corporate interests have put profits over our lives.’

‘It stops now. This initiative will accelerate our search for PFAS-free gear.’

The release announced the hiring of three large legal firms to ‘change regulatory standards, demand PFAS-free gear, and be available to be retained by members and families seeking compensation for PFAS-related illness.’

The announcement of legal efforts tied to PFAS — a group of harmful chemicals increasingly linked to cancer — was made following the screening of a documentary that chronicled the yearslong advocacy of former Worcester resident Diane Cotter. 

The documentary, produced by actor Mark Ruffalo, shows how Cotter battled resistance from corporations and her husband’s own union in a quest to uncover the existence of the chemicals in firefighter turnout gear. 

Cotter suspected the chemicals could be present in the gear after her husband, Worcester Fire Lt. Paul Cotter, was diagnosed with prostate cancer and knocked off the job in 2015. 

Cotter is among more than two dozen cancer-stricken firefighters statewide — including 15 from Worcester — who have already filed lawsuits regarding PFAS in their gear. 

The firefighters allege PFAS in their gear to be the ‘proximate’ cause of their cancers. Defendants in the lawsuits — large chemical makers and gear companies — have denied the allegations.”…