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  • Writer's pictureJohn Larrimer

Are Firefighters at Risk for Developing Cancer?

A Columbus firefighter has been honored for speaking about his experience battling cancer. The firefighter received the Hometown Hero Award from a local radio station and credit union. Despite several studies linking firefighting and skin cancer, Ohio has allegedly made very few steps to protect firefighters.

In 2012, the firefighter was diagnosed with melanoma, which had spread throughout his body. Doctors gave him five years to live. In an attempt to stop others from suffering the same fate, the firefighter began to lecture on the dangers associated with firefighting.

Why Are Firefighters More Likely to Develop Cancer?

His story is not unique, and firefighters around the country are at risk for developing cancer. According to the International Association of Firefighters, cancer is the main cause of occupational deaths among firefighters. A recent article published in The Atlantic explains why firefighters are at risk.

Modern consumer products, such as plastic, foam and other coatings, can contain harmful chemicals that increase the risk of developing cancer. For example, the carcinogen benzene can be found in modern furniture, and formaldehyde can be found in cleaning products. Although firefighters wear lots of gear to perform their duties, there are cracks and crevices where toxic soot can seep in and stick to clothing and skin. Once exposed to heat, the chemicals are more likely to absorb into skin.

Firefighters are at risk for developing non-Hodgkins lymphoma, prostate and testicular cancers. A study from the Centers for Disease Control found firefighters were more likely to develop lung, bladder and kidney cancer.

When we think of occupational illnesses, the names silicosis and asbestosis come to mind. However, cancer is also an occupational illness, and one that can have severe consequences for workers and their families.

Larrimer & Larrimer, LLC – Columbus Workers’ Comp Attorneys

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