The Haverhill and Methuen Fire Departments are among those who are receiving state grants to purchase gear and equipment to limit firefighters’ exposure to cancer-causing chemicals that cling to their gear in the heat of a fire.
Rep. Linda Dean Campbell of Methuen and Sen. Paul Feeney of Foxboro established grant funding in the state budget and secured roughly half of the money, $420,000, to help fire departments purchase specialized industrial washing machines called extractors that are capable of removing toxic chemicals from firefighting gear.
“The cancer rate among our firefighters, especially our younger firefighters, is alarming and of immediate concern,” said Campbell. “Establishing a grant program for extractors for heavy firefighter gear is key to reducing this trend, as the volume of carcinogens in fires is increasing and is increasingly absorbed by firefighter gear. Carcinogens are then absorbed from the gear into the skin, and if they are not removed from the gear, firefighters repeatedly re-absorb them.”
Haverhill and Methuen each received a grant of $6,416.
The other half, secured by Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester helps 144 fire departments purchase new turnout gear, including hoods and gloves. Given that the head and hands are high-risk areas where cancer-causing chemicals may enter the body, appropriate turnout gear is a necessary investment. These grants paid for approximately 3,000 hoods and 3,000 pairs of gloves statewide. The Methuen Fire Department has received a turnout gear grant of $4,800, making it one of 45 fire departments successful in receiving both an extractor grant and a turnout gear grant.