FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — The risks firefighters face while fighting fires are clear, but there are also concerns about the protective clothing, known as turnout gear, they wear.

Firefighters can be exposed to hundreds of different chemicals in the form of gases, vapors, and particles. Men and women on the frontlines can get breathe them in, get them on their skin or in their eyes, or ingest them, which can increase the risk of cancer.

“It started with losing firefighters, I can’t stomach that,” firefighter Jason Burns said. “I can’t see another widow or fatherless child.”

For years, firefighters like Burns have dealt with the loss of young men and women to work-related cancer. It is a leading cause of death for firefighters across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“After learning about cancer and how it affects the body, we found out the groin is a susceptible area and one that is not protected at all during firefighting or anything like that so we started putting the designs together,” Levi Bousquet, president of 9 Alarm Apparel, said.

Now, inside a factory space in Fall River called Precision Sportswear, a protective undergarment is being made by Bay State company 9 Alarm Apparel, which created the underwear for firefighters.

“In our line of work obviously it gets hot sometimes, but when that happens your pores open up, and in sensitive areas, your skin is thinner, softer, and eventually you’re going to come out of that heat and you’re going to cool down and your pores cool down and then they lock up,” Burns explained. “What it’s essentially done is lock up all those toxins into your body, and we know those toxins are targeting different parts of our body and giving us cancer.”‘

The undergarment is designed to block cancer-causing particles, also known as PFAS. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PFAS are commonly found in people’s blood and can cause harmful health effects.

“Our garments are PFAS free, it almost feels like a bike short,” Bousquet said.

The undergarments can’t make a full 100% guarantee, however, according to Bousquet.

“It’s 99.9% particular blocking and that is going to keep us safer,” Burns said. “Anything we can do to reduce exposure reduces that chance that somebody gets that bad diagnosis.”

“It’s a whole cycle, it’s washing as soon as you get back, it’s wiping your skin and deconning on the scene, it’s showering when you get back, it’s working out, it’s adding all those pieces to the puzzle and we feel that by adding [the underwear] to that, it’s like putting money in your retirement savings and it’s going to give you the best chance,” Bousquet added.

9 Alarm Apparel just put its first 500 pairs online for purchase a few weeks ago and there were already at least two Massachusetts departments looking into filly outfitting their fire crews, including in Fall River.

“Our chief is viewing a grant application right now and we’re hopeful that the grant is going to work out,” Burns explained. “It should be able to give each member of the department, we have 200 members, two sets.”

“We’re not going to eliminate exposure, not in our job, we understand that and we’re willing to take on that risk, but anyway we can reduce it is fantastic,” Burns added.

While the undergarments are currently for men, the company is working on prototypes for female firefighters.

They’re also looking to potentially expand to protective shirts and neckwear in the future.