The link between firefighting and cancer

Most modern professions are dangerous in some way or another, but today’s firefighters face especially hazardous work environments that place them at risk for a wide range of work-related injuries and illnesses. If you count yourself among those who make your living working as a firefighter, it is important that you understand how your profession exposes you to potentially cancer-causing contaminants.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, two recent studies involving firefighters and cancer revealed some troubling findings regarding the link between the profession and the disease. More specifically, the studies revealed that today’s firefighters are 9% more likely than the rest of the population to receive a cancer diagnosis during their lifetimes. They are also 14% more likely to die from cancer than the rest of the population, raising important questions about what communities should do to better protect their first responders.

Industry-wide changes needed

In the past, many firefighters chose to forgo wearing personal protective equipment on the job, and they would often do so because they saw the action as an indication of toughness or bravery. Over time, though, more became known about the critical nature of not only wearing personal protective equipment when fighting fires but laundering it immediately after, too.

Recommended safety protocols

Nowadays, most firefighters recognize that they may be able to reduce their chances of developing work-related cancer by promptly and thoroughly cleaning their protective gear after use. Many communities are also having their firefighters take more steps to thoroughly clean fire hoses, hand tools and similar equipment that may also come in contact with contaminants during firefighting efforts.

While members of the firefighting profession have become more aware of the link between firefighting and cancer in recent years, more research needs to take place in order to protect the nation’s first responders.