Firefighters and Occupational Diseases
It is estimated that firefighters are two and a half times more likely to develop cancer than members of the general public. Why is that? Because firefighters are exposed to carcinogens while fighting fires AND when they return to the supposed safety of the fire house.
Fire Suppression & Overhaul ActivitiesAs one expert said, *Simply put, smoke contains a bunch of carcinogens.* Modern buildings are filled with synthetics and plastics that when combusted, give off a toxic array of dangers. Firefighters are regularly exposed to aromatic hydrocarbons as well as benzene, formaldehyde, asbestos and many other carcinogens that can become aerosolized * or converted into a fine mist that can be inhaled. Firefighters who remove their mask during the overhaul period, when a fire is mostly out, often don*t appreciate the dangers of the air quality because the harmful particles are basically invisible.
But it is not just what you breath in that can harm you. The soot that collects on a firefighter*s turnout gear and PPE is actually a vessel of cancer-causing agents that can be absorbed through the skin. This particulate matter or soot often contains compounds such as arsenic, lead and mercury * all known carcinogens.
Diesel Exhaust in Fire StationsEven in the face of all the studies indicating that diesel exhaust causes cancer, many fire stations continue to rely upon outdated or improperly maintained diesel exhaust removal systems. When you couple outdated exhaust removal systems with diesel engines that billow dark smoke and soot into a station*s living areas, it is clear that for some firefighters, their toxic exposures extend to the supposed safety of the fire house.
Common Firefighter Occupational IllnessesStudies have shown that firefighters remain especially at risk for the following occupational illnesses:
Cancer of the Intestines
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
In recognition of these workplace exposures, many states, including Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Missouri have laws on the books which presume that certain diseases, including cancer, are job-related illnesses stemming from firefighting. These presumptions can be helpful in obtaining benefits for career firefighters, including worker*s compensation payments.