Firefighters face many dangers on the job. However, what many people may not realize is that fire itself may not be the deadliest danger firefighters face on the job. We recently covered the disturbing trend of firefighter heart attacks on the job, and this week we examined another troubling health issue facing these brave public servants: cancer in the fire service.
Why do firefighters get cancer, and how can we help prevent this growing epidemic?
Why is Cancer in the Fire Service a Growing Epidemic?
Fire emergencies do not only present the prospect of severe injury or death by burns for firefighters. Equally as dangerous as the flames themselves are the toxic chemicals emitted during fire emergencies. These chemicals are just as dangerous to the well-being of firefighters, and are the chief reason for the growing epidemic of cancer among firefighters.
Unfortunately, most U.S. firefighters are volunteers, meaning that the departments they serve do not have the necessary funding for equipment to help mitigate the risk of cancer caused by toxic chemicals. For example, one of the ways to reduce the risk of cancer among firefighters is a second set of equipment for every firefighter. This would allow for more extensive detoxification of contaminated equipment. Unfortunately, many departments simply do not have the resources to pay for second sets of equipment for their firefighters, which can run as high as $3,000. For volunteer fire departments across America, that is simply not an option. Poorly-funded fire departments also do not have the resources to pay for specialized washers and dryers needed to properly decontaminate their equipment.
So why is cancer in the fire service a growing epidemic? The answer is funding.
Fire departments nationwide are often forced to survive on budgets so small that they cannot afford the equipment necessary to mitigate the risk of cancer firefighters face. The unfortunate reality is that many local governments do not provide proper funding for their fire departments which has directly led to the growing cancer epidemic among America’s firefighters.