B.C. could soon become the first province to partially ban a group of cancer-causing chemicals used in everything from firefighting equipment to makeup. Tabled by BC Green MLA Adam Olsen, the proposed law would ban per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals in the firefighting equipment used by the province's professional and volunteer fire crews.

PFAS are a class of water-, heat- and grease-resistant chemicals that do not break down in nature, earning them the name "forever chemicals." Researchers have linked the chemicals to a suite of health issues, from negative impacts on the reproductive system to increasing the risk of cancer or reducing the immune system's ability to fight off infections. They also interfere with the body's natural hormones and can cause heart problems or obesity.

While nearly ubiquitous in modern life — they're used in everything from makeup to raincoats, and 98 per cent of Canadians have them in their blood — firefighters are exposed to particularly high amounts of the chemicals because of their prevalence in firefighting equipment. The danger of PFAS — and the lengths chemical manufacturers have gone to prevent limits on their use — have been highlighted in the latest podcast by Canada's National Observer.

"Firefighters face hidden dangers from ‘forever chemicals,’ including flame retardants and PFAS in foam, which threaten their well-being long after the fires are out,” said MLA Olsen in a press conference announcing the bill. “It's time we prevent harm with better gear regulations. It's our job to protect crews from these unseen dangers, just as they protect us.”

A spokesperson for B.C.’s Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General said in a statement that the department is “reviewing the legislation introduced in the house… Firefighters do heroic work and are always there when people need them. Our government has taken important steps to support firefighters throughout the province and we will continue to do so."

While Vancouver's fire service has started eliminating equipment that contains PFAS from its repertoire, Olsen said that smaller departments without the funds to upgrade their gear will benefit from the provincial support enshrined in the proposal. Much of rural B.C. is served by volunteer firefighting units that often don't have the funds to buy new gear, Olsen said.

The bill comes as Canada lags behind its international peers in regulating PFAS. Concerns about the chemicals' health impacts have prompted efforts in the U.S., the U.K., the European Union and other countries to limit their use.

Last May, Environment and Climate Change Canada published an assessment of the health and environmental impacts of PFAS that assessed the chemicals as a class, instead of individually. Environmental groups hope the approach signals the government is likewise considering listing the entire class of chemicals as toxic, enabling them to enact more effective restrictions on PFAS. Canada's chemical industry staunchly opposes that approach and has been lobbying against it for months.

With federal efforts advancing slowly, "it would be great for B.C. to show leadership and [get the bill] passed," said Elaine MacDonald, Ecojustice's director of healthy communities. Still, she emphasized that provincial action alone is not enough.

B.C. could soon become the first province to partially ban a group of cancer-causing chemicals used in everything from firefighting equipment to makeup.

"We want to get the PFAS listed as a class and get moving ahead with regulations before a potential change in government in Ottawa," she said. "So time is kind of ticking down."

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A shout-out to The Poison Detectives podcast. It's very informative.

Keep "shining the light".

BC needs to get rid of the neonicticides that they spray over their clear-cut forests, which kill the biome the forests rely on and all the broad-leaved plants and the bees and pollinators that feed on those plants.

Also glycophate another name for these chemicals which are in Roundnup.

Wholeheartedly agree.