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The above title for this article is the headline of an article that appeared in the N.Y Times and picked up by the Baltimore Sun in their January 31 edition.

The fire fighter gear today and for the past 30 years has been made from fabrics that are flame retardant treated. We know that the flame retardant chemicals give off fumes and these fumes are cancer causing.

The nature of the article gives in depth information about how the fire fighters are exposed to these fumes and that they have a higher rate of cancer than the rest of the population. The numbers quoted in the article are as follows; 9 % higher risk of getting cancer and a 14% higher risk of dying from the disease than the general U.S. population. Firefighters are most at risk for testicular cancer [the spokesman for the Nantucket fire department with whom I spoke told me he has a friend 38 years of age and a fire fighter with testicular cancer]. They list other cancers and the rates have not declined.

I have written in the past about REI in conjunction with Duke University doing a study of flame retardant chemicals applied to fabrics used to make tents. The study explains that one should wear gloves when setting up their tent because the fire retardant chemical will get on you hands. Of course, once inside the tent you are subject to breathing the fumes. I believe all of this information is published on the REI web site. You go camping to get away from the city and expose yourself to cancer causing agents in your camping equipment. REI has not taken these tents out of their stores since the study was done, and that was 8 years ago I believe. I think it is really unthinkable that a company with all of the information as rei has on the danger of selling tents with fire retardant treatments as rei is doing. I think it is reprehensible that a retailer sell products that are harmful to their customers. Keep in mind that ALL of the stores, small independent retailers as well as the giants like dick’s, moosejaw, bass pro, cabellas, and so many others also sell the same tents as rei that are flame retardant treated. These guys make it good for the motel trade.

I have also written about the fact that I make all of my products from fabrics that have a pure finish. After the fabrics are dyed no chemicals such as water repellents and certainly not fire retardants are applied to them. The number of people who have called asking about chemicals in very significant because they are chemically sensitive. Also, they do not want to subject their children to chemicals. Most of the callers are women.

We are not born with chemical sensitivity we develop it because we are exposed to so many chemicals. As an example, in the article, they reference a chemical acronym PFAS with no explanation. It stands for PER-and POLYFLUORALKYL substances are a group of man made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFSA, GENX and many other chemicals. These chemicals have been manufactured and used in a variety of products around the world including the US since the 1940’s.PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body-meaning they don’t breakdown and they can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects. [Why don’t they say cancer because it doesn’t lead to broken limbs or high blood pressure.] This information comes from the EPA web site.

A professor Graham Peaselee, of The University of Notre Dame is head of a research project of these chemicals and found significant quantities of similar chemicals in fire fighters’ protective clothing, applied to keep the cloths water resistant. [it is a mistake to keep the clothing water resistant because fabric that is wet will take a lot more heat to cause it to burn, so you want the fabric to absorb the water.] when I spoke with him, he told me his staff doing the testing of the fabrics started to wear gloves and when the gloves were tested, they found the chemicals on the gloves as did the researchers at Duke University who tested the tents.

Professor Peaselee also noted that, and I quote, “firefighters aren’t told about this [the dangers of the chemicals in their clothing]. So, they’re wearing it, they’re lounging in it when they’re between calls. That’s chronic exposure, and that’s not good.”

Having spoken with Professor Peaselee I found him to have significant and I mean significant knowledge of the subject and could write his own in depth article on the subject. One thing he told me was a company supplying these fireman’s clothing has actually found a fire retardant fabric that does not utilize the chemicals and offers it as an alternative to the items sold today with the chemicals. But they will not phase out the chemically treated garments.

There is much more to the article as NY Times article are, so I am stopping here. the emphasis is that firefighters may very well die from the clothing they wear, it obviously takes time but it happens.

If you are a fire fighter you may want to review what we make for the oil industry workers in Alaska, no chemicals. Look at the video I made demonstrating that the fabrics I use are not combustible.

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