March 22, 2023 — The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a self-funded nonprofit that develops over 300 fire, life, and electrical safety standards. Over more than 125 years, these standards have protected countless lives and prevented billions of dollars in property damage.
The following is NFPA’s statement about the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) lawsuit and is attributable to Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy:
NFPA understands the complex health risks that come with firefighting, and we’re deeply sympathetic to the terrible toll that cancer takes on firefighters and their families. We’re proud of the role we’ve played in educating the fire service about firefighter cancer risks and supporting federal legislation to better understand the epidemiology around this important public health issue. For more than a century, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with the fire service on a shared mission to protect life and property in our communities, and that important work will continue.
Unfortunately, the IAFF has chosen to pursue a legal strategy the facts make clear is misguided and ill-informed. What’s more, the IAFF’s recent public comments about the lawsuit falsely portray NFPA, our standards development process, and the role the IAFF itself plays in that process. We won’t allow our organization, our people, or our valued volunteers to be disparaged or our long-standing process to be politicized by a meritless lawsuit.
NFPA’s process is the gold standard for standards development and involves a proven, consensus-based approach:
- NFPA is the neutral facilitator. We don’t create or dictate the provisions of a standard. That’s the job of technical committees, which are comprised entirely of expert volunteers. These dedicated individuals represent groups like consumers, government, industry and labor, including many representatives from the fire-fighting community.
- NFPA technical committee members are well-respected experts who bring deep expertise to the standards development process. They work diligently to evaluate each and every recommendation submitted. The IAFF’s suggestion that these expert volunteers aren’t acting to make the best technical decisions based on the information presented to them devalues their inestimable contributions to the standards development process.
- NFPA does not have, nor have we ever had, any special agreements or relationships with any company or organization involved in our standards development process. Every aspect of that process is publicly available, including the names and affiliations of committee members, how they vote and all actions taken. No more than one-third of any technical committee is represented by the same interest category. The IAFF’s suggestion that any group exerts undue influence over NFPA’s process is false and defamatory.
- With the exception of NFPA employees, anyone in the world can propose changes to any standard, which the relevant technical committee must then review. At no point has the IAFF, or anyone else for that matter, recommended language to the technical committee that would prohibit the use of PFAS in firefighter protective gear.
- The NFPA protective gear standard does not specify or require the use of any particular materials, chemicals or treatments for that gear. It does require a moisture barrier test to ensure the gear will protect the wearer. The manufacturer decides how to comply with that test. Even then, it’s entirely at the discretion of organizations and jurisdictions whether to use the standard.
- In 2021, when an amendment was submitted into the standards process that would remove this test from the protective gear standard, it didn’t gain the support needed in the technical committee. In fact, the proposed amendment didn’t even receive a simple majority of the technical committee votes.
- For additional context that contradicts the IAFF’s claims, out of the approximately 12 technical committee members who represented the fire service, only two voted for the amendment that would remove the moisture barrier test. The balance of the committee members either voted against removing the test, abstained, or did not return a vote. Out of the seven manufacturers on the committee who voted on the amendment, four voted to approve the amendment to remove the test.
- NFPA regularly updates its standards, and the balanced, transparent, open process for updating the protective gear standard is underway now.
About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
Founded in 1896, NFPA is a global, self-funded, nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. The association delivers information and knowledge through more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach and advocacy; and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission. For more information, visit www.nfpa.org. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed online for free at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.
Contact: Susan McKelvey, Public Affairs Office