Mass. Firefighters Raise Alarm About ‘Forever Chemicals' in Gear, Firefighting Foam

Firefighter Dan Ranahan proudly served on Boston’s Ladder 4 for seven years before a cancer diagnosis changed everything

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Just this week, more than a dozen Massachusetts firefighters file a federal lawsuit against several companies that make their turnout gear and firefighting foam.

They allege companies knowingly used chemicals in those products that could cause cancer.

One of those firefighters is Dan Ranahan of Boston.

Family is everything to Dan.

And in the Ranahan family, firefighting is in their blood.

"My father was on for 38 years, and my brother’s been on for 15," Ranahan said.

And for seven years, Dan’s proudly served on Boston’s Ladder 4.

"This is the one thing I always wanted to do," he said, "and I wouldn’t change it for anything."

But in October 2020, a lingering cough and low-grade fever led to a diagnosis that would change everything.

Dan said the doctor told him, “You have a mass in your chest the size of a coconut.”

At just 30 years old and a new dad, Dan was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

"So it was definitely a shock and not really necessarily what we expected by any means," Ranahan's wife Jessica Ranahan said.

As Ranahan endured months of chemotherapy – he and other firefighters began sounding the alarm about concerns over potentially cancer-causing chemicals in their turnout gear and the foam they use to fight fires.

"We can do anything in a burning building, we can do anything at car accidents, medical calls," said Ranahan, "but if we’re wearing the gear that’s getting us sick, then it’s just going to continue."

Jonathan Levine is one of the attorneys working with the Ranahans and 14 other firefighters to sue the companies that make those products.

"The biggest impetus here is to effectuate change through the litigation, force these companies to come up with safe products, which they can do," Levine said.

"So if it sheds some light and there can be some changes on what’s protecting these guys who are risking their lives for their communities," said Jessica, "I think that that’s the main goal."

As the Ranahans prepare to welcome their second daughter in April, they have hope for the future.

"I want to be able to see them grow up, I want to see them get married, I want to see them live a happy life," Ranahan said.

Through this journey, Ranahan started the Boston Local 718 Firefighter & Family Cancer Foundation to provide emotional and financial support to firefighters diagnosed with occupational cancer and their families.

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