Fire Fighters Ask Albany to "Give Toxics the Boot"

Alarming cancer rates in fire fighter populations sparks national movement

March 26, Albany, NY-- Fire fighters and health leaders across the country are asking for immediate action on toxic chemicals as a part of the Give Toxics the Boot campaign.


More than twenty events were organized around the country, many occurring simultaneously today, to honor fire fighters who have passed from occupational-related illnesses, some linked to toxic chemical exposure.

The events were paired with local screenings of the HBO documentary Toxic Hot Seat.


Decades worth of scientific research shows toxic chemicals, like flame retardants, are linked to health problems including cancer, hormone-disruption and harm to the developing brain. Scientific studies have shown fire fighters have an increased cancer risk compared to the normal population due to onsite exposures to toxic chemicals and gasses.


“Our brothers and sisters across the country are facing alarming rates of cancers, and we need the federal government and our decision-makers at the state level to take notice and help us come up with solutions,” said Mike McManus, president, New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association. “It’s time to give toxics the boot.”


The movement’s goal is to communicate to elected officials that chemicals should be proven safe before ending up in our homes and building materials, to protect the health of American families and first responders. Currently, policies on toxic flame retardants are making progress in state legislatures across the country, while Congress is working towards comprehensive toxic chemical reform.


"Who would have thought that the very chemicals meant to prevent the spread of flames would contribute to such health problems in fire fighters and the general public? That's why I'm sponsoring legislation to limit their use while maintaining protective fire safety standards," said Senator Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo), Environmental Conservation Committee Chair and sponsor of the Tris-Free Children and Babies Act and the Safe Sofas Act.


"People, especially vulnerable subpopulations such as children and workers with high occupational exposures such as fire fighters, should not have to worry about toxic chemicals in household products. All too often, one toxic substance is banned only to be replaced by one that is equally dangerous. That's why I've introduced legislation to get us off this toxic treadmill once and for all," said Senator Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), sponsor of the Child Safe Products Act.


"For years, the New York State Assembly has passed legislation I sponsored to remove toxic flame retardant chemicals from everyday products. I strongly urge the New York State Senate to follow suit during the 2014 legislative session," said Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) and sponsor of the Tris-Free Children and Babies Act, Safe Sofas Act, and Child-Safe Products Act. "Given their toxicity, and the lack of proven fire safety benefit from their use in child care products and upholstered furniture, it just makes sense to eliminate these dangerous, unnecessary chemicals," Sweeney added.


"Studies have increasingly linked chemicals used as flame retardants to a host of health problems, including certain cancers, learning and developmental delays, genital malformations such as cryptorchidism and hypospadias in baby boys, and reproductive dysfunctions such as lowered sperm count and difficulty conceiving," said David O. Carpenter, MD, University at Albany Institute for Health and the Environment. "Fire fighters are particularly at risk, and are more likely to die from seven different types cancer: mesothelioma (100% increase), rectum (45% increase), buccal/pharynx (40% increase), esophagus (39% increase), large intestine/colon (31% increase), kidney (29% increase), and lung (10% increase)," Carpenter added.


“How did we end up in this toxic hot seat? Chemical industry misrepresentation and intensive lobbying has created the justification for the use of these chemicals. Not only can they cause cancer, neurological problems and hormone disruption, but they don’t even work as advertised,” said Kathy Curtis, executive director of Clean and Healthy New York and National Coordinator of the Alliance for Toxic-Free Fire Safety. “It’s high time our leaders put the health of people and communities ahead of chemical industry interests by putting stronger laws in place,” Curtis added.


Organizers of the event hope to raise public awareness about the issue of toxic flame retardants, fire fighters unique exposures and the need for strong government leadership on regulating toxic chemicals.Participating states: AK, CA, DC, FL, ME, MA, MI, MN, NY, NC, OH, PA, UT, VT, WA. Following a brief news conference, Albany organizers screened the film.


View the news conference here:

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