5 ways firefighters can reduce their risk for cancer

​Firefighters must take it upon themselves to reduce their exposure to cancer-causing agents


By Keith Collins, alumni, Fire Science Management, American Military University

Cancer among firefighters is a danger all those in the fire service must be continuously conscious of. Research by the International Association of Firefighters found that cancer is a leading cause of death amongst career firefighters with more than 60 percent of firefighters dying from cancer.

[Related: Fight Cancer at Your Fire Department]

Firefighters must take it upon themselves to reduce their exposure to cancer-causing agents. During my 12 years in the fire service, the biggest hurdle I’ve seen in minimizing cancer is what I call the “cool” factor. This sounds lame, I know, but in every firehouse across America there are guys and gals who like to keep their gear dirty to show that they did work. Some firefighters keep gear dirty as a memento of their accomplishment. Part of this response is due to pressures from other firefighters. If a firefighter goes on the fire ground with a bright canary yellow shirt on, most guys on the fire line will think (and treat) that person like a newbie, a wildfire greenhorn. Not washing gear, however, means firefighters are continuing to expose themselves to carcinogens found in many of the common materials in fires.

When firefighters sweat, it opens up their pores allowing the soot, ash, and chemical residue left on gear to continually enter the blood stream. This practice must end – there must be a shift in the mentality. Firefighters must be taught to be diligent about cleaning their gear, each and every time they’re called to a fire. ​

​Full story: 5 ways firefighters can reduce their risk for cancer

Image provided by InPublicSafety.com
Image provided by InPublicSafety.com

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