Vancouver to switch firefighters to non-toxic gear

Click to play video: 'Vancouver switches firefighters to non-toxic gear'
Vancouver switches firefighters to non-toxic gear
Vancouver firefighters will become the first in the North America to transition to new non-toxic gear aimed at reducing the risk of cancer. Troy Charles reports – Apr 13, 2024

Vancouver firefighters will be the first in the North America to transition to new non-toxic gear, the city said Friday.

Bunker gear, the protective equipment worn by crews battling structure fires, typically contains so-called “forever chemicals” in its water-repellent inner lining.

Firefighters are exposed to the chemicals, known as Per-and-Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), through daily skin contact exacerbated by extreme heat and physical exertion. PFAS chemicals have been linked to a higher risk of cancer.

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Occupational lung cancer claims life of Burnaby firefighter

“The City is proud to be the North American leader in creating a safer workplace for Vancouver’s firefighters,” Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim said.

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“In approving the transition to PFAS-free gear, we provide greater protection to those who put their lives on the line daily for Vancouverites. It is the least we can do for our hardworking team members.”

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The transition to the new gear came following a one-time Vancouver Fire Rescue Services (VFRS) budget increase of $2.8 million.

VFRS says nearly a quarter of all occupational claims among members are linked to cancer or cancer-related illnesses. Thirty-four members have died from work-related cancers since 2017.

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“Firefighter occupational cancer is currently the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths in the Canadian fire service. We need to change that,” Vancouver Fire Chief Karen Fry said.

“We are proud to be leading the way as the first fire service in North America to provide PFAS-free gear and will continue to seek new innovations to support the health and safety of our crews.”

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The city said it has already placed an order for 220 units of the new gear, enough to cover about a quarter of firefighters, which is due by the end of the year.


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