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Ohio Fire Fighters Urge Government Leaders to “Give Toxics the Boot”

Alarming cancer rates in fire fighter populations spark national movement

The Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters, Columbus Fire Fighters Local 67, and the Ohio Environmental Council are joining forces in calling attention to chemical fire retardants and their relationship to increasing cancer rates in fire fighters and health problems in children.

Chemical flame retardants, once thought to be important fire safety tools, are now known to be toxic and to release carcinogens when they burn. This has resulted in a higher incidence of cancer in the fire fighter community, and health problems for children.

In Columbus and across the nation today, fire fighters and health leaders are urging immediate action on toxic chemicals as a part of the GIVE TOXICS THE BOOT campaign.

More than 20 events have been organized around the country, many occurring simultaneously today, to honor fire fighters who have passed away from occupational related illnesses, some linked to toxic chemical exposure.

The events are paired with local screenings of the HBO documentary Toxic Hot Seat., see details, below, for local screenings.

Decades worth of scientific research shows toxic chemicals, like flame retardants, are linked to health problems including cancer and hormone-disruption and are harmful to the developing brain. Scientific studies have shown fire fighters have an increased cancer risk compared to the normal population due to onsite exposures to toxic chemicals and gasses.

“Children have been found to have flame retardant levels in their bodies that are 3 times higher than the levels found in their mothers,” stated Laura Distelhorst, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and Parent. “Cancer rates in children have grown by 20% since 1975 and learning disabilities are skyrocketing. Innocent children should not have to be exposed to such toxic chemicals at the expense of their health.”

“Fire fighters face the danger associated with our profession every day in communities across Ohio,” commented Mark Sanders, OAPFF President.  “Conventional wisdom told us we could see and feel those dangers: flames, heat, collapse of buildings.  These toxic flame retardants are poisoning us in ways we often times can’t see or feel and certainly in ways never anticipated.”

The goal of this national movement is to communicate to lawmakers that chemicals should be proven safe before ending up in our homes and building materials, to protect the health of American families and first responders. While 11 states are considering policies on toxic flame retardants in their legislatures, Ohio’s legislature has been silent on this issue.

“Fire fighters and children have in common a heightened exposure to chemical flame retardants in our home environments,” stated Melanie Houston, Director of Environmental Health at the Ohio Environmental Council. “We need strong federal and state laws on toxic chemicals, laws that protect our most vulnerable populations, including infants, children and fire fighters. Unfortunately the most recent bill introduced in the U.S. House, the Chemicals in Commerce Act, does not do this.”

Organizers of the event hope to raise public awareness about the issue of toxic flame retardants, fire fighters’ unique exposures and the need for strong government leadership for effective regulation of toxic chemicals.

Participating states: AK, CA, DC, FL, ME, MA, MI, MN, NY, NC, OH, PA, UT, VT, WA

Local screening time and location: March 26 at 7:30pm at the AMC Easton Town Center 30