Protect Female Firefighters From Toxic, Cancer-Causing Chemicals

Target: Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters

Goal: Protect female firefighters from exposure to cancer-causing chemicals by directing resources toward developing and/or obtaining non-toxic uniforms and firefighting foam.

Female firefighters are exposed to higher levels of toxic, cancer-causing chemicals compared to women who work in other professions. Certain per-and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFAS) are found in the turnout gear, or uniforms, of firefighters, as well as in the foam they use to put out fires. These PFAS are linked to breast cancer and other harmful illnesses.

Female firefighters in San Francisco recently raised concern over perceived higher rates of breast cancer among their colleagues. This sparked a study conducted by University of California, Berkeley, University of California, San Francisco and Silent Spring Institute. Researchers collected blood samples from 86 female firefighters and 84 women who work in offices in downtown San Francisco. Of the 12 types of PFAS, seven were found in the majority of participants and four were found in all the participants. Three were detected at significantly higher rates in the firefighters.

PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t easily break down in the environment. These chemicals are in firefighting turnout gear, such as boots, helmets and jackets, and in the foam they use to put out fires. PFAS have been linked to a variety of cancers and are known to interrupt immune and endocrine function and breast development.

Recent studies that have documented higher rates of cancer among firefighters are primarily focused on men. Females are typically overlooked and understudied in the workplace. There are more female firefighters in the San Francisco Fire Department than any other metropolitan district in the United States. These women deserve representation and protection from exposure to PFAS and the resulting risks of breast cancer. Sign below to demand the International Association of Fire Fighters direct resources toward developing and/or obtaining uniforms and foam that does not contain PFAS, as well as implement proper safety instruction.


Dear President Schaitberger,

Firefighters face exposure to high levels of PFAS that are linked to cancer and interference with important bodily functions. In addition, female firefighters are facing high rates of breast cancer and their health is often overlooked in the workplace.

We cannot afford to lose our highly valuable female firefighters, as well as firefighters in general, to harmful illnesses such as breast cancer and diminished immune function. The International Association of Fire Fighters needs to implement regulations and proper safety instructions for workers to use after exposure. In addition, I demand that you fund and direct resources toward developing and/or obtaining equipment that does not contain PFAS to protect the health of our firefighters.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Spapa003

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


303 Signatures

  • Evan Mehrman
  • Robin Craft
  • olivia saachi
  • Debbie Biere
  • Joe Kotulic
  • Vanessa Bartley
  • Elizabeth Marino
  • Paula Lambert
  • Barbra Doherty
  • Marianne Mancini
1 of 30123...30
Skip to toolbar