The wife of a former Massachusetts firefighter who developed prostate cancer is taking her concerns about the safety of his firefighting gear to Capitol Hill this week.
"We are meeting with our elected officials asking them to sign on to the new house bill that would literally label all PFAS as a hazardous material," said Diane Cotter.
PFAS are a class of nearly 5,000 chemicals that have been used for decades to produce firefighting foam, furniture and cookware.
Notre Dame scientist Graham Peaslee says PFAS can also be found in some turnout gear worn by firefighters in order to make the clothing more water-resistant.
Peaslee began testing gear Cotter sent to him a year ago.
To date, no link has been found between PFAS and Cotter's husband's cancer. But the Centers for Disease Control says exposure to PFAS can increase the risk of cancer. Cotter says she has just begun in her quest for answers.
The final results of Peaslee's testing are expected in the next month.
DuPont, who makes firefighter clothing, said the company "no longer makes, uses or buys PFOA and cannot comment on these materials."
Cotter and firefighters from across the country, including Massachusetts, submitted testimony on PFAS exposure and cancer among firefighters.
Cotter is asking legislators to investigate if the firefighter gear could present a health risk and what manufacturers may have known about those potential dangers.
"We are asking for a hearing — we want to know who knew what and when did they know it," Cotter said.
Cotter was joined in Washington by The Environmental Working Group, a national advocacy organization, which calls PFAS "a crisis" for the environment.
"To have them wearing uniforms that actually cause them further exposure is just something we should have been paying attention to long ago," said Ken Cook, president and chairman of the board of EWG. "The EPA needs to step up. It's too much hesitation, too little willingness to take on a tough problem and take on a big tough industry."
Cook says they've recently seen strong support on both sides of the aisle for the regulation of these chemicals.
Cotter says she still has more questions than answers.
Legislators on the House Energy and Commerce committee are also debating whether they should be regulating PFAS chemicals in drinking water.
To read the testimony of Diane Cotter and Massachusetts firefighters submitted to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, click here.