Occupational illness among firefighters getting more attention

We have written extensively on our Pittsburgh workers’ compensation blog about how asbestos can have a long-term impact on industrial workers and other employees who might have been exposed to the substance, even if it was decades ago. While new asbestos products have not been used for some time, there are still several possible issues with products that do receive a lot of use, making the threat of occupational disease a very real one for many of today’s employees.

One group that seems to be especially susceptible is firefighters. Furniture pieces of recent vintage are often made with synthetic chemicals, some of which burn more quickly and with more heat than their older counterparts. The chemicals within them may also be dangerous to firefighters when they are in close proximity to them when they are aflame.

Several firefighters have found themselves suffering from cancers that do not run in their family. They suspect the chemical exposure is a primary cause of their illnesses. It may be that experts have overlooked these sorts of causes as reasons for firefighters becoming ill.

In fact, the leading cause of death for line-of-duty firefighters is cancer, at 54 percent. One expert thinks that firefighters are 50 percent more likely to develop blood cancer and 100 percent more likely to develop testicular cancer as a result of chemical exposure.

One thing that may help is if gear is kept as clean as possible. Firefighters sometimes wear sooty, smoky gear as a badge of honor and a sign of their experience. However, doing so could inadvertently put themselves and their colleagues at a higher risk of illness.

Source: WCCO-TV, “Are Flame Retardants Causing Cancer In Firefighters?” Liz Collin, May 26, 2014

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