If you agree that a safe and healthy workplace is good business, explain how this applies to firefighters, who work in dangerous, toxic situations that produce cancer causing agents affecting their health?

The co-owner of a small start up company, 9 Alarm Apparel, Inc., out of Belchertown, Massachusetts said they are addressing this ageless problem for firefighters by creating "The Defender Brief," the only undergarment specifically designed to protect firefighters from toxic, cancer-causing particulates entering the body through the groin area.

Researchers found that 70 percent of firefighters develop cancer, compared to only 22 percent for the general public. Researchers also confirmed firefighters are twice as likely to develop testicular cancer.

"The groin is one of the most sensitive parts of the body. Groin absorption rates can be up to 50 percent greater than normal skin. The Defender Brief reduces skin exposure to cancerous particles," said Jonathan Levi Bousquet, co-owner and former firefighter.

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The reason these briefs are successful at blocking out carcinogens is because of a specially formulated film that is imbedded in the garment.

"We're at the edge of a new era, but it's hard to make change when you're dealing with 200 years of unimpeded change, because generally speaking, we don't like change," Bousquet said. "And frankly, this has been a rollercoaster ride, when at points, I just wanted to give up because I'd be very close to running out of money with few options to find funding out there."

Courtesy 9 Alarm Apparel
Courtesy 9 Alarm Apparel
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The company hopes its groundbreaking garment can be put into larger use as well.

"We're trying to grow our business," he said. "Looking at the larger picture, we'll soon be making a line of apparel for consumers. We've been getting positive feedback from science labs and firefighters themselves. I know we're on the right path and we're doing the right thing."

The garments are being constructed in Fall River at Precision Sportswear.

"At first, I wasn't aware that these special undergarments would help protect firefighters from cancer," said Precision General Manager Paul Medeiros. "It's great that Precision Sportswear is part of this cancer-fighting effort."

The Defender Brief is about more than just making a marketable product.

"On behalf of every fallen firefighter, I'm humbled to be innovating to save lives," Bousquet said.

For additional information email levi@ninealarm.com or talk about it online using the hashtag #protecttheboys.

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