The Clean Water Blog

Why Cancer is Killing Boston’s Firefighters – One Year Later

In March 2017, Boston Magazine published Why Cancer is Killing Boston’s Firefighters--a powerful article about two Boston firefighters, Glenn Preston and Peter Kannler and their battles with cancer. Both men were diagnosed in their mid-30’s; Preston was still fighting but Kannler had lost the battle. The article pointed to toxic chemicals as a culprit and specifically brought to light the issue of toxic flame retardants in common household items contributing to cancer, and other adverse health effects for firefighters like Glenn and Peter.

One year later, even more firefighters have been diagnosed with cancer due to chronic exposure to flame retardants and other toxic chemicals in common household items and furniture. These men and women who risk their lives to save us are heavily exposed to the hazardous fumes and soot that are created when the toxic products in our homes burn, and they bring the chemicals home on their clothing, putting their families at elevated risk as well.

In the article, Boston Fire Commissioner, Joseph E. Finn refers to cancer as an epidemic among firefighters.  The cancer rate among Boston firefighters is double that of Boston residents. Commissioner Finn estimates that he has known 200 colleagues who have died from cancer.  In fact, the International Association of Fire Fighters cites cancer as the leading cause of death among firefighters.

One year later, the time to act is now. S.1175 and H.1245 – An Act to protect children, families and firefighters from toxic flame retardants (Sponsored by Senator Cynthia Stone Creem and Representative Marjorie Decker) would ban known toxic flame retardants from children’s products, household furniture, bedding and window coverings.  S.1175 received a favorable report from the Joint Committee on Public Health last week and, H.1245 is still pending before that committee.

Please write to your legislators and urge them to make it a top priority to pass this bill into law this session.

We expect firefighters to be there for us in our times of need, let’s do all that we can to protect them as well.