Fire fighters at greater risk of cancer

fire deaths image courtesy WSFA 12 News 315x210 Fire fighters at greater risk of cancerThe International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) erected the Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Wall of Honor in 1986 to recognize and honor past and future professional fire fighters and emergency medical professional killed in the line of duty. More than half of the fire fighters named on the Wall of Honor since 2002 died from cancer, according to IAFF.

“The toxic environments in which fire service members live and work have long been suspected to have an adverse effect on fire fighter health, and studies have backed that up,” the organization states on its website. Fire fighters routinely come in contact with soot and toxins including both dermal absorption and inhalation of carcinogens and hazardous particles, including asbestos and benzene.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was commonly used in building materials including insulation until the 1980s. Asbestos exposure can cause the incurable lung disease asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs and other internal organs.

Benzene is one of the most commonly used chemicals in industries. Exposure to benzene can affect the blood cells and increase the risk for leukemia, particularly acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Benzene exposure has also been linked to acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and other blood-type cancers including multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in adults.

Even though fire fighters wear protective gear and self-contained breathing apparatus when responding to fires, they are routinely exposed to cancer hazards. These contaminants can remain on gear.

Thus, it is critical that fire fighters protect themselves by properly and thoroughly cleaning their equipment, advised In Public Safety, an American Military University (AMU)-sponsored website with news, analysis and commentary on issues relating to law enforcement, emergency management, fire services, and national intelligence.

“This should be done on a regular basis as well as after every call with exposure or potential exposure,” the organization urged.

In Public Safety