Cancer Risk in Firefighting
WITHIN THE FIRE SERVICE, not using SCBA and wearing soiled PPE were long considered badges of fire fighter toughness and bravery.
For many fire fighters, those perceptions have been costly, and in some cases deadly. Fire fighters who for years didn’t regularly wear SCBA or clean their personal protective equipment (PPE) after returning from fire fighting incidents have developed various forms of cancer, including lung cancer, and other long-term illnesses. There are even cases of young fire fighters with far fewer years of contaminant exposure who have received cancer diagnoses as well.
Minimizing Contaminant Exposure and Risk
Fire service organizations and individual fire departments have become increasingly aware of the health and safety hazards posed by contaminant exposure, and have been working to educate the fire service about ways to reduce those risks.
At the Fire Protection Research Foundation – the research affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) - three major initiatives are under way to address fire fighter exposure to contaminants on the fire ground and beyond:
substances from PPE is lacking. “Validation of Cleaning Procedures for Fire Fighter PPE” (a three-year study due in late 2018) works to identify the contaminants found on PPE and the disinfection/sanitization procedures required to remove them. (See nfpa.org/ppecleaning)
and beyond - sometimes even into private vehicles and the homes of fire fighters. The “Campaign for Fire Service Contamination Control” (a one year- study due in late 2017) aims to educate the fire service about the health and safety risks of contaminant exposure in all these locations, and to provide steps for controlling contaminants’
spread. Go to nfpa.org/contamination for more information.