HAMPTON, Va. - The Hampton Division of Fire & Rescue is the first in the region to get gear that has added protection against carcinogens.
The new clothing is specifically designed to reduce exposure of potentially dangerous particulates that can cause cancer.
"A lot of times we are going out to what may seem like a routine house fire, and we are exposed to hundreds, if not thousands of chemical compounds coming off burning material," said Edward Cantwell, Battalion Chief with Hampton Fire.
Soot and ash that chronically exposed to can be deadly.
"We are at greater risk, up to 10% with some cancers than the general public," stated Cantwell.
The firefighters' new PPE, at $2,400 each, is also designed to provide comfort and the same level of fit and mobility as the current gear they wear.
"Thermal protection from exposure is extremely important for the firefighters," said Chief Jason Monk. "This new gear also provides the optimal balance of thermal protection and breathability and doesn't add any additional heat stress."
Besides Florida, Hampton Fire is the first department on the East Coast to get the new cancer blocking technology suits, reducing the risk of the deadly disease.
"Not only will it stop the influx of particulates onto our skin, but the new nanotechnology reduces it up to 98%," explained Cantwell.
The new gear will begin to be distributed to 270 firefighters in the department later this year.
"You spend 25 years in a career field doing something that you love, so when it's time to move on to a different part of your life you want to enjoy another 25 years," Cantwell said.