Firefighters risk their lives extinguishing fires and serving their community. In the course of duty, they constantly put themselves in harm’s way. Although they can be well compensated financially, the job carries significant risk, as being a firefighter can substantially increase one’s chances of having health problems. Here are some of the health risks and harmful conditions that firefighters face.
What Are the Harmful Health Risks of Being a Firefighter?
Every time a fireman fights a fire, they literally risk their life. Of course, the bigger the fire, the more at risk the firefighters are. For instance, in a study done by Dr. David Prezant — chief medical officer of the New York City Fire Department — and his colleagues, it was found that firefighters exposed to toxic fumes and dust in the air after the 9-11 terrorism incident in 2001 are more likely to be eventually diagnosed with cancer. Of note, the normal time period between initial exposure to carcinogens and the occurrence of cancer can be several decades. Yet, in the case of 9-11, it has been found that the time period between exposure to carcinogens and the occurrence of cancer is much shorter.
Additionally, researchers from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a study where they examined the health histories of thousands of firefighters from several major cites in the United States. In this study, the rates of cancer among firefighters were compared to the rates of cancer found within the general United States population. The researchers found that the rates of urinary, respiratory, and digestive cancers had risen among firefighters. They also found that there were increased rates of mesothelioma, esophageal cancer, breast cancer, intestinal cancer and kidney cancer among firefighters.
What Causes the Cancers that Firefighters Have?
Firefighters’ cancers occur from exposure to carcinogens such as benzene, formaldehyde, chloroform, or soot. Additionally, because many of the fires they extinguish are from buildings constructed decades ago, they are at risk of asbestos exposure, which carries a multitude of health risks. In particular, firefighters can be at risk for mesothelioma after breathing in asbestos fibers from a small amount of smoke. Firefighters have little recourse if they are forced to work in buildings with asbestos: many of the medical conditions caused by asbestos exposure are incurable.
Are These Cancers Curable?
Mesothelioma cancer is not curable at this time. The other types of cancers that firefighters face may or may not be curable depending on the severity of the cancer, whether the cancer is diagnosed early, and how long the firefighter continues to work. Another factor that determines whether a firefighter will be diagnosed with cancer is how often they wear special respiratory protective gear. Also, their health can depend on preexisting medical conditions at the time they were exposed to cancer-causing materials. If a firefighter already had a preexisting medical problem, that condition could potentially make things worse if they get diagnosed with cancer as well. Each case is different.
Roman Williamson, a freelance health blogger from Newark, NJ, understands in great depth the risks and hazards faced by firefighters on a daily basis, which is why he suggests that if you have mesothelioma symptoms, contact Shrader Law in order to receive high quality assistance.
Image credit goes to wheelerdonna.