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Job injury or illness risks for firefighters, part 1: cancer

On Behalf of | May 13, 2014 | Workplace Illnesses |

One of our recurring themes in this blog is that while work injuries can occur in any setting, some workplaces are more dangerous than others.

We have already looked in some detail at several of these settings. In our April 30 post, for example, we discussed the risks in warehouse work. And in our March 31 post we discussed health care workers.

Construction work is also well known to carry many risks.

In this two-part post, let’s look at risks faced by firefighters.

Those risks could broadly be classified as of two types. One type involves the risk of getting cancer from exposure to toxic chemicals. The other type involves other sorts of risks, such as collapsing buildings and falling objects.

Cancer is the leading health problem faced by firefighters. The link between cancer and firefighting is already well established and more research studies continue to add to the evidence.

Multiple studies have found that the rate of cancer among firefighters is greater than among the general population. Indeed, it is not only higher; it is significantly higher.

For example, the risk of firefighters getting testicular cancer is 100 percent greater than for the general population. It is also 50 percent higher for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

One environmental toxicologist who studies the issue of firefighters believes firefighters’ elevated cancer risk is closely related to the sheer amount of toxic chemicals present in American homes. There are a host of household materials and appliances that contain such substances.

It is bitterly ironic that much of the toxicity comes from chemicals that were supposed to act as flame retardants. In practice, many of these chemicals have backfired terribly, harming both consumers and firefighters.

This is a terrible type of backfire – a backfire that can cause cancer.

In part two of this post, we will discuss other work injuries that firefighters can suffer on the job.

Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press, “Reuben Rosaio: Firefighters need help in battle vs. cancerous chemicals,” May 4, 2014


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