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The link between firefighting and cancer

On Behalf of | Feb 11, 2020 | Workers' Compensation

Firefighting is, by nature, a highly dangerous profession. If you make your living working as a firefighter, you probably understand the hazardous nature of your job all too well. While there are obvious risks that come with running into burning buildings and searching for people inside, there are also long-term health risks associated with working as a firefighter. Your chances of developing work-related cancer, for example, are higher due to your job as a firefighter than they would be for the average person.

In fact, the National Fire Protection Association reports that you are 9% more likely than the average American to develop work-related cancer because you work as a firefighter. You are also about 4% more likely than the average American to ultimately die because of work-related cancer.

Cancer risks in firefighting

A number of aspects of your firefighting job may make you more likely to develop cancer. Asbestos, which is a known carcinogen, poses a threat to firefighters, even though laws prevented its use in construction efforts during the 1980s. Because asbestos is still present in many buildings constructed before the ban, you may still face exposure risks when you fight fires where asbestos is present. With prolonged exposure to asbestos comes an enhanced risk of certain cancers, among them mesothelioma. While asbestos exposure has the potential to lead to cancer, so does failing to properly clean your personal protective gear after firefighting.

Reducing cancer risks

To reduce your risk of work-related cancer, always clean your personal protective equipment immediately after using it. In the past, some within the firefighting profession failed to wear or clean their gear regularly because they thought it made them appear tougher. However, research shows that promptly and thoroughly cleaning your gear after use likely goes a long way in preventing work-related cancer.

As a firefighter, there are specific procedures that you should follow in your efforts to remove potentially hazardous substances from firefighting gear. Make sure that you are aware of them before you start making a living in firefighting.