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  • Writer's pictureJohn Larrimer

Do Firefighters Have an Increased Risk of Developing Cancer?

Firefighters put their lives on the line to save others from disaster. Whether it is pulling people from a burning building, helping those who have been injured or using the “jaws of life” to extract people from crushed cars, these men and women regularly help our community. Despite everything they do for us, some studies have found a link between firefighting and cancer.

Are Firefighting and Cancer Connected?

Consumer products are made with synthetic materials such as plastic. When these materials burn at extremely hot temperatures, they become airborne carcinogens. This may explain why firefighters have cancer rates three times that of the general population. Statistics gathered by the International Association of Fire Fighters show 60 percent of firefighters die from cancer.

An article published by The Atlantic describes in more detail why firefighters may be at higher risk for developing cancer. Wearing proper gear does not completely mitigate the risk of being exposed to carcinogens. Fumes can build up on firefighter uniforms, and later be released as gas once gear is removed. Carcinogens present in smoke can find ways into firefighter uniforms and be absorbed through the skin.

How is Ohio Helping Firefighters Prevent Cancer?

There are several ways Ohio is helping firefighters fight back against cancer. For example, some fire departments are taking extra steps to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals. In Colerain Township, firefighters keep their equipment on until long after the fire has dissipated to protect against toxic materials still present in the air. Firefighters in Colerain Township also deep-clean their equipment to rinse away any lingering contaminants.

The Ohio Senate recently passed a bill that would recognize cancer caused by firefighting as an on-the-job illness. Senate Bill 27 would allow firefighters who developed cancer as a result of their occupation to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

The Ohio workers’ compensation attorneys at Larrimer & Larrimer, LLC can help families and workers who have been affected by occupational illnesses.

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