How Common is Cancer in Firefighters?

How Common is Cancer in Firefighters?

As we are all undoubtedly aware, firefighters put their own lives on the line as part of their job. Working in and around fires and at heights are obviously very dangerous conditions. Smoke inhalation, the fires themselves and the damage they cause to buildings and the risk of them collapsing are all very serious aspects of firefighting. However, that is not the only risk to their health and safety that they face. There is an even more serious, but much less obvious and invisible threat in the form of cancer. 

What is the Risk?

Modern constructions projects tend to involve more and more plastic and synthetic materials than they ever did in the past. When everything is fine and good, these materials perform a stellar job. However, when they ignite and start to burn during a fire, that’s when the real danger arises. While they are burning, many of these materials release powerful carcinogens (compounds that can cause cancer) such as PAHs or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. Other carcinogens that firefighters can be exposed to include diesel exhaust and asbestos.

As well as being inhaled, they can also be absorbed into the skin.

That is why firefighters must wear the right PPE, including SCBA or Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses. 

However, there is also now strong evidence to show that another way firefighters could be exposed to potent carcinogens is through the gear they wear to protect themselves. That is because many of the key pieces of gear and equipment that firefighters use daily contain PFAS or Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances.

How Common is it, then?

It may seem like there are other more perilous aspects of the job they are trained to do, than the clothing that is designed to protect them. Understandably, for many it can be a surprise to learn that it is not smoke inhalation or burns that are the most common causes of death for firefighters in the US. It’s cancer. In 2019, cancer accounted for a staggering 75% of the deaths of active-duty firefighters. 

It is a sobering thought that while firefighting has always been a serious and risky career to have, it’s not the actual fires or collapsing buildings that are causing deaths. It’s cancer. It’s also alarming that many of the big brands still use these dangerous and toxic materials. 

The toxic materials have been shown to migrate and if they don’t get into the air that the firefighters are breathing, it gets into their skin, their hands, and bodies, particularly in the most sensitive areas. There is also the worry that if they take any of their gear home with them to wash, they are then bringing these PFAS and PAHs to their families and exposing them to unnecessary risks.

A Solution from 9 Alarm

Lawsuits are being filed and union action is being taken, but while a long-term solution is being delivered to these problems, 9 Alarm are pleased to offer some help. We appreciate that firefighters need to keep doing their job to keep us safe and need to use whatever safety equipment is available. 

To help, we have developed The Defender Brief which is specifically designed to provide suitable protection for firefighters against toxic carcinogens making their way into your skin and bodies. They use a specially patent-pending SAFE-STOP Particulate Blocking Barrier that is free from PFAS and has been tested to NFPA 1971, 2018 Edition Particulate Blocking Section standards. They are also sweat-wicking, breathable, and made with smooth, triple-stitched seams. Did we mention that they are comfortable too?

For more information on The Defender Brief, take a look at our site, read the reviews from serving firefighters, and consider investing in some for yourself and your team. For department orders, please use the contact form.