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‘They’re still using it’: Firefighters with cancer question the use of dangerous chemical in equipment



ATLANTA, Ga. — When Mark Johnson signed up to be an Atlanta Firefighter in 1980, he knew the big risks.

Being caught in a flashover or a collapse,” Johnson said, “we’re not thinking about the foam agent we might be using.”

Fellow retired firefighter Craig Chait didn’t think about that either.

“I never assumed or thought there were any issues with AFFF or that it could cause cancer or that it could hurt you in the future,” said Chait.

They both can’t stop thinking about it, now.

Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) is a special firefighting tool for putting out flammable liquids. It’s made with chemicals called perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). They help stop hazardous fires, but that may come at a price.

In January, Chait was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer of his thyroid.

The cancer was wrapped around my vocal cords, so the doctor actually had to cut it off of my vocal cords,” Chait said.