New Indiana law helps protect firefighters from toxic chemicals

NOW: New Indiana law helps protect firefighters from toxic chemicals

A new law signed today by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb will help protect Hoosier firefighters from the toxic chemicals known as PFAS.

But it stops short of actually banning cancer-causing compounds.

House Bill 1219, which was passed unanimously at the state house, will require the monitoring of PFAS levels in firefighters' blood because the so-called "forever chemicals" have been linked to multiple cancers.

The law comes after the death of longtime South Bend firefighter Mike Brown from esophageal cancer in February, just weeks after he retired.

The toxic particles are found in a firefighting foam and the protective gear firefighters wear on the job every day.

"Firefighters are exposed to these toxic, man-made chemicals at a higher rate than the population due to that chemical being in their protective gear and also in the AFFF fighting foam that they use to put out some of the most severe fires," said State Representative Maureen Bauer, who sponsored the bill. "In South Bend in particular, there has been a number of rare cases of cancer in the fire service. In 2019, we lost two members of the fire service to a very rare form of brain cancer."

The new law also requires firefighting gear to come with permanent warning labels on them.

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