Firefighters and cancer: What precautions should be taken?

Firefighters have dangerous jobs – in more ways than one.

Researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that firefighters have a higher-than-average risk of developing cancer.

A total of 30,000 firefighters were involved in the study. Researchers found that firefighters were more likely to be diagnosed with respiratory, digestive and urinary system cancers. They were also found to be twice as likely to develop mesothelioma than the general population, most likely due to exposure to asbestos in firefighting.

Firefighters can be exposed to many dangerous chemicals and toxins on the job. Many of these chemicals are present in plastics, which are used much more now than in years past.

Flame-retardant materials are also a major offender. Most furniture now contains these chemicals, which are linked to many health problems, including cancer.

What can firefighters do to reduce their risk of cancer?

According to FireRescue1, there are several things that can help:

  • Research: Knowledge is power. Fire service workers should learn all they can about the risks of their jobs and ways to reduce cancer risk. There are many resources available online.
  • Wash gear: Failure to wash clothing and firefighting gear leads to unnecessary exposure to dangerous chemicals and toxins. These chemicals can get on the skin and enter the bloodstream. Firefighters should make a practice of washing their gear after every use.
  • Stay healthy: Eating right and exercising are effective ways of reducing the risk of cancer and many other diseases. It is extremely important to get adequate rest and quality sleep.

It is important to have conversations about this issue and discuss ways to minimize risk. Firefighters have extremely important jobs, acting selflessly to protect the public. Their health and safety should be top priority.

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