U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today introduced the Healthy Firefighters Act, legislation to help keep our firefighters healthy in the wake of disasters. The Healthy Firefighters Act requires the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to monitor the long-term health of firefighters who respond to federal disaster areas. Boxer said, “In the process of protecting our communities, our brave and selfless firefighters often breathe in dangerous toxins and fumes that can result in long term health problems. My legislation will help ensure that our firefighters are looked after and that we understand the health risks they face when out in the field.”
Firefighters working in disaster areas are exposed to several toxins known to be harmful to long-term health, including fine particulates, carbon monoxide, sulfur, formaldehyde, mercury, heavy metals, and benzene.
The Healthy Firefighters Act is supported by the International Association of Firefighters, the National Volunteer Fire Council, and the California State Firefighters´ Association. Boxer added, “As we approach the heart of the fire season, it is vital that our nation´s firefighters are able to respond to emergencies without fear that, in years to come, their health will cripple their ability to help people in need.” The Senate passed similar legislation by Boxer as an amendment to the Healthy Forests Restoration Act last year by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 94-3, but the provision was stripped out of the final bill during conference.