Pittsburgh firefighters are asking state lawmakers to ban chemicals found in flame-retardant furniture.
According to Pittsburgh Firefighters Deputy Chief Frank Large, studies have found that these chemicals increase the number of cancer deaths in firefighters inhaling the chemicals. Flame-retardant materials that are found in 85 percent of couches in American homes become carcinogens when ignited in a house fire.
Large says firefighters are given state of the art technology to filter the smoke they breathe in, but that isn’t enough to protect them from these chemicals.
“We insist on our people wearing respiratory protection in terms of self-contained breathing apparatus, but even still we’re seeing an increase in cancers among our members,” said Large.
Firefighters understand the risks involved in with their career — getting lost in a burning building, running out of oxygen, a collapse — but don’t expect cancer to be one of them. One firefighter who became a victim of these dangerous chemicals is Antonio Romano from New Castle who was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkins-Lymphoma in 2011. He is currently in remission.
“I didn’t sign up to get cancer. Due to all the different types of chemicals that we’re exposed to the toxics, and we need to do something to eliminate this. We need more of a non-toxic environment. Something needs to be done and it needs to be done together,” said Romano.
Firefighters from 15 states are hosting “Give Toxics the Boot” events to gain the attention of lawmakers and remove these chemicals from homes.
According to Large, the contents of American homes have changed drastically in the last 50 years, and are making fires more dangerous for first responders.
“Less wood, more plastic. Plastic basically once its heated and begins to melt burns like gasoline, I’ve heard folks talk about it as though our built environment now has basically solid gasoline as a fuel as opposed to wood that burns a little bit more slowly,” said Large.
Flame-retardant chemicals can also affect the development of children. According to Learning Disabilities Association of America spokeswoman Maureen Swanson, children who are exposed to these chemicals while in the womb have been shown to have lower IQs and attention problems. The chemicals have also been linked to cases of autism and ADHD.
According to Safer States, 26 states have legislation pending that would restrict or ban chemicals from certain consumer products.