Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Underwear for firefighters means to prevent cancer

The Defender Brief by 9 Alarm Apparel
A Massachusetts textile maker has teamed with firefighters to make cancer-preventive underwear.

In October 2021, I shared John Oliver's Last Week treatment of PFAS, the highly carcinogenic chemical that is used to make non-stick cookware, as depicted in the movie-based-on-a-true-story Dark Waters, and which can now be detected in the blood of most Americans.

At that time, Oliver lamented that PFAS is not even on the list of toxins that water quality tests look for. Indeed, as I stated in an update to that post the same month, I sought my water quality report at home in Providence, Rhode Island, and there was no mention of PFAS.

There has been progress since. Both the U.S. EPA and the European Union are moving forward with plans announced in 2021 to regulate PFAS. (But see Tom Perkins, US Water Likely Contains More "Forever Chemicals" Than EPA Tests Show, Guardian, July 6, 2022.)

In my house, we replaced our Teflon-coated cookware with a Rachel Ray set we hope is PFAS-free. I took the Teflon stuff to metal recycling, but probably, I acknowledge, it will contribute to the problem in the short term, as landfill waste is leeching PFAS into the earth.

There's a long way to go. In late June, NPR reported, "the EPA put out a new advisory warning that even tiny amounts of some of PFAS chemicals found in drinking water may pose risks." And "[s]cientists are finding PFAS everywhere." A so-called "forever chemical," PFAS persists in the environment, practically never breaking down.

Firefighters are especially vulnerable to PFAS exposure, and testicular cancer is an especial risk. Reminiscent of once seemingly miraculous asbestos, PFAS is used in fire-suppressive gear as well as the firefighting foam in which firefighters can find themselves literally swamped. Firefighters filed a wave of lawsuits in February, CBS News reported, claiming cancer resulting from PFAS exposure.

In a welcome sliver-of-hope development, Massachusetts textile makers announced in tandem with the February lawsuits the sale of PFAS-protective underwear for firefighters.

Precision Sportwear is making "Defender Briefs," a product created by Northampton, Mass., firefighter Levi Bousquet and his company, 9 Alarm Apparel. They told WBZ that Defender Briefs "block 99% of cancer-causing agents from reaching the skin." Precision is located in Fall River, Mass., and 9 Alarm Apparel in Belchertown, Mass.

9 Alarm is marketing the underwear with the slogan, "Protect the Boys."

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