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Professional firefighters enter PFAS fight

Joel McCord/WYPR

Maryland’s professional firefighters joined the effort Tuesday to ban a class of chemicals known as Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS in the state.

Grant Walker, of the Maryland Professional Firefighters Association told a virtual news conference with lawmakers that cancer has replaced cardiac events as the leading cause of death in firefighters over the last 20 years.

He blamed PFAS, which are used in firefighting foam as well as firefighters’ gear.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has said PFAS, known as forever chemicals because they don’t break down, can cause harmful health effects in humans.

Walker said bills working their way through the House and Senate to completely ban the chemical are a top priority for his group after lawmakers banned their use in firefighter training last year.

“It is the next logical step to eliminating these cancer causing agents from a firefighters everyday life,” he said.

He said other states have laid out a roadmap to achieve that goal.

“Maryland will join California, Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York and Washington in banning these toxic chemicals from firefighting foams.”

Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.