President Joe Biden wants to limit the risks firefighters face from exposure to toxic chemicals in their gear and from wildfires fueled by climate change, he said Monday.
The president, speaking to a crowd at the International Association of Fire Fighters Legislative Conference on Monday, listed a series of policy priorities aimed at improving safety and benefits for firefighters.
“You guys are the best, you women are the best, and that’s not hyperbole,” Biden told the group. “You’re the very best America has to offer. We owe you.”
The president pointed to the high rate of cancer among firefighters. “Toxic substances you’re exposed to on the job are almost certainly why cancer is a leading killer to firefighters,” he said.
Biden added, “We’re going after toxic exposure to PFAS, so-called forever chemicals, that for years have been in your gear, your equipment … that you depend on to be able to do your job.”
Firefighters are exposed to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — a highly toxic class of chemicals linked to a wide variety of health problems even at very low doses — from the protective gear they wear on the job (Greenwire, Feb. 16, 2021).
“I’m determined, determined, to make sure you have the gear that protects you without making you or your family sick. You deserve it,” the president said Monday to applause.
With “climate change becoming so severe,” Biden added, “we’re calling on you more and more.” And “extreme heat and drought turn wildfire season into wildfire years,” he said.
Biden pointed to the massive climate law enacted last year, which funnels about $370 billion toward climate and clean energy initiatives.
That law “makes the most significant investment in history in confronting climate change, including protecting forest health, reducing fire risk in nearby communities to protect you,” he said.