Archive for category Cancer in the fire service

Cancer in the fire service

Excerpts from 12news.com:

Cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a team of researchers in Arizona believes it might be because each fire they fight is changing how their genes work, making them more susceptible to cancer and other diseases.

Bryan Jeffries, President of the Professional Firefighters of Arizona was diagnosed with seminoma in 2019, saying that it’s the synthetic materials that are catching fire, exposing them to toxic chemicals.  Gear protects them from the heat of the fires, not from the chemicals.

Dr. Jeff Burgess and his team at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health have been trying to understand how firefighters are at such a high risk for cancers and other diseases. Their latest study, funded by FEMA, found that firefighters undergo DNA methylation, where genes change in their expression without changing their actual DNA sequence. When certain genes are turned on or off it can make people more at risk for things like cancer.

They worked with Tucson Fire Department and studied new recruits through their first few years of working, finding the more fires they went to or how long they spent fighting them added up. They found changes at 680 different places on the genome, many of those genes were related to cancers and other diseases. While it’s not clear if those specific changes will lead definitely to cancer, it’s a lead to understand exactly what does.

With the study taking place at the very beginning of a new recruit’s career, it highlights how quickly these changes happen, and how they can add up over years on the job.

While firefighters are continually working on decontamination of their gear and themselves, keeping gear exposed to the chemicals out of the cab and in a separate area of the firehouse, there’s still more that can be done with changing equipment and tactics.

The team at UArizona is already expanding the study, working with even more fire departments around the country to understand exactly what DNA methylation sites are affected in firefighters.

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Cancer in the fire service

Excerpts from ack.net:

Firefighters from Fall River and Hyannis joined their colleagues on Nantucket Monday in an effort to begin understanding just how much of the PFAS chemicals in their turnout gear is absorbed into their bodies.

“My involvement really stems from having to bury two 30-year-old firefighters from cancer,” said Jason Burns of the Fall River Fire Department. “Cancer has always been a part of our job, we get it. But something changed. Why are we now burying 30-year-olds? It used to be 50-, 60-, 70-year-olds that got cancer. Something changed and to me, it changed when they started pumping our gear full of these PFAS chemicals. You’re seeing guys getting cancer younger, and the cancer is more aggressive.”

The firefighters took part in three tests. The first was intended to measure the overall level of PFAS in their blood, and see how it compares to that of national averages. Then there were two skin tests; the first before putting on their turnout gear, and then after wearing their turnout gear for two to three hours while they built up a sweat.

The project is being spearheaded by the Nantucket PFAS Action Group, which was awarded a community grant from the Universtiy of Massachusetts’ TURI (Toxics Use Reduction Institute), to learn more about PFAS in firefighter gear.

Nantucket is one of the first firefighting communities in the nation to use new turnout gear that has substantially less PFAS, which is known for its water-resistant qualities, that have coated firefighting gear for decades. Those involved in the study want to compare the results from firefighters wearing the new turnout gear versus those wearing the older gear.

PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that have been used in a wide variety of products, from food packaging to clothing and household products for decades. Firefighting turnout gear as well as firefighting foam have been known to have particularly high levels.

The chemicals don’t break down easily and accumulate in the environment and in the human body. While they continue to be studied, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has found evidence that PFAS exposure can lead to a host of adverse health effects including certain types of cancer, increased cholesterol levels, negative effects on reproductive organs and thyroid disruption.

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Cancer in the Fire Service

Excerpts from nbcchicago.com:

Inspired by a Chicago firefighter who has pushed hard for his brothers and sisters to be screened for lung cancer, this weekend will see the launch of a special series of screenings for firefighters.

Pat Cleary, the vice president of Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 said. “Maybe we should do that for the rest of the firefighters in Chicago. So I reached out to Dr. (Christopher) Seder and he responded.”

That phone call led the union to team up with Rush University Medical Center to hold lung cancer screening and health fairs, with the first one set for this Saturday. Specific criteria must be met for an annual low-dose CT scan to be covered by insurance companies, and must include a history of smoking.

CFD Union Local 2 will instead pick up the cost for firefighters who don’t meet that criteria if they schedule a screening during a health fair.

Firefighters see a 60% increase in their chances of being diagnosed with lung cancer, according to studies, and health experts say that firefighters should be screened for lung cancer yearly.

Rush University’s Dr. Nicole Geissen says that early detection can make all the difference. “We know that if we can detect lung cancer in the early stages, say Stage 1 or 2, then the survival rate and disease-free interval is much better than late stage cancer,” the thoracic surgeon said.

According to officials, there are still spots open for Saturday’s health fair, but Rush is asking that firefighters call 312-947-LUNG (5864) to schedule their screenings.

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Cancer in the fire service

Excerpts from minnesota.cbslocal.com:

Firefighters are getting cancer at a high rate because of the elements they are exposed to.

Mark Munson, a captain with St. Paul Fire Department, got a big idea from the hoods firefighters use that cover the head and neck. He felt like there were other parts of their body that needed protection, specifically high exposure areas like underarms and groin. He founded Under Guardian with one simple goal – to reduce firefighter cancer. The company makes microfiber pieces for firefighters to wear under their gear that blocks almost all contaminants.

The biggest challenge is getting fire departments to invest in the product, because it’s costly to make, about $240 for a set of gear.

 

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Cancer in the Fire Service

Excerpts from wgntv.com:

January is Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month. The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) says from 2015 through 2020, 75% of those added to the Fallen Firefighter Memorial of Honor Wall were members who died from occupational cancer. While battling fires, crews are exposed to toxic chemicals.

Illinois State Fire Marshal Matt Perez said “These contaminants remained on gear and on the skin of firefighters and could be transferred to fire department vehicles firehouse living spaces and most frightening transferred back to their homes at the end of the shift. And the old image of the firefighter with soot on the face and sweat dripping down, we’ve got to get rid of that, right?” Perez said. “That’s romantic from the fire service, but that is also the chemicals that sit in the surface and sit on your skin, that is causing these cancers, so we want to see clean firefighters.”

It’s essential firefighters get their annual physicals and follow-ups, have full personal protective equipment, track exposures to carcinogens, decontaminate immediately at the scene and launder gear after every event. 

In 2020, the state launched a preliminary exposure reduction training project. About half of the fire departments in Illinois -including Chicago- have completed the training. In return, departments received a free decontamination kit for every vehicle utilized. 

Perez says he wants the state’s more than 40,000 firefighters to be aware of the risks and the resources available to help them.  

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Cancer in the fire service

 

Excerpts from wlos.com:

The increased rates of cancer in the fire service have been a key topic for researchers and firefighters alike. In 2015, an IAFF study found particles of soot and smoke from structure fires could penetrate a firefighter’s turnout gear and could be contributing to the spike in cancer rates among firefighters.

Data gathered from a mannequin armed with sensors known at N.C. State as Pyroman, is one tool researchers are using to better protect firefighters from carcinogens that increase their risk of cancer. At Raleigh and N.C. State, there are half a dozen ongoing research projects aimed at providing better protections for firefighters.  At N.C. State’s Textile Protection and Comfort Center, researchers are using Pyroman and PyroHead to combat soot and smoke in structure fires from penetrating a firefighter’s turnout gear, which could be contributing to the spike in cancer rates among firefighters.

Researchers are studying what chemical compounds are getting stuck to and later releasing from a firefighter’s turnout gear. That could be relevant for volunteer firefighters who may store their gear in their personal vehicles and puts anyone in the vehicle, including their families, at risk for exposure to carcinogens.

N.C. State is also focusing on glands on a firefighter’s face and neck and whether protective hoods are enough. In 2018, N.C. state developed a device, a particulate filtration efficiency test, with a light meter attached, that lets fire departments check their hoods for weaknesses.

Getting soot and grime off a firefighter’s skin sooner also has more departments using wipes on scene. 

The research projects at N.C. State are funded through FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. To learn more about the program, click on the following link: NC State University Heat and Flame Protection TPACC

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Niles Fire Department news

Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

Michelle Aprati, a mother of four and a Niles firefighter and paramedic for the last 16 years was working a shift when she received word that she had breast cancer. The hardest part of her diagnosis was telling her family — both at home and at the firehouse. And like family, the men of the Niles Fire Department stepped forward to offer their support.

On Feb. 16, they and members of the Park Ridge, North Maine, Morton Grove, Skoki,e and Glenview fire departments gathered at the Niles fire station to shave their heads in solidarity with Aprati, who is in the middle of her first phase of chemotherapy treatments. She had been planning to have her husband shave her head due to the hair loss she was experiencing from the treatments, but when she heard members of the department wanted to do a mass shaving event at the fire station, she agreed to hold off.

The event also acted as a fundraiser to help pay her medical expenses not covered by insurance. When someone offered to donate $500 if Fire Chief Marty Feld agreed to shave his decades-old mustache in addition to the hair on his head, Aprati picked up the shaver. About 50 people, most of them fire personnel or family members, volunteered to have their heads shaved. 

In addition to contributing financial donations, firefighters sold pins shaped like pink ribbons to raise money for Aprati. She is the only female firefighter/paramedic in Niles hired in 2003 and working there ever since. Her father was a fire chief in Elk Grove Village and Itasca.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in December, she is in her sixth of 12 rounds of chemotherapy and has felt well enough to continue working her regular shifts. She acknowledges, though, that as her treatment progresses, fatigue may force her to take some time off. After her first series of treatments, she will begin a second phase that requires four cycles of new cancer-fighting drugs. Surgery and radiation will follow. Her cancer spread to her lymph nodes and is considered to be stage 3 or 4, but she explained that she is taking her doctor’s advice to focus on how it is being treated, rather than the stage given to it.

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Cancer in the Fire Service

Excerpts from cbs19news.com:

Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger and Congressman Don Bacon (R-Nebraska-02), a U.S. Air Force veteran, introduced the Michael Lecik Military Firefighters Protection Act on Thursday in the U.S. House. It aims to provide veteran firefighters will the compensation, health care, and retirement benefits they earned with their military service. The bill is named for Michael Lecik, a Powhatan County resident who was deployed twice as a U.S. Air Force firefighter.

Lecik was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in Feb. 2019, but the Veterans Health Administration does not cover the treatment costs for such disease because the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs does not often recognize the service connection between firefighting and cancer as a presumptive service-connected disability more than a year after active duty. Lecik’s service ended in 2008. Following his military service, Lecik became a civilian firefighter and then chief fire inspector at U.S. Army Garrison Fort Lee. he also volunteered as a firefighter with the Huguenot Volunteer Fire Department.
 

The legislation would create a presumption that veteran firefighters who become disabled by certain diseases, such as heart disease, lung disease or certain cancers, contracted that illness during their military service. It would also extend the time frame during which certain diseases can be recognized as service-connected to military firefighting to 15 years.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducted a study in 2010 that found U.S. firefighters are more likely to suffer from certain diseases and illnesses as a result of their career, and they ten to experience higher rates of cancer than the general population in the United States.
 

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Cancer in the fire service

Excerpts from cbsnews.com:

The Ray Pfeifer Foundation confirmed on Twitter Wednesday that two more New York City firefighters have died due to “9/11 illness,” marking the 199th, and 200th FDNY deaths related to the World Trade Center attacks. Retired FDNY Captain Dennis Gilhooly of Engine Company 67, and retired Firefighter Brian Casse of Engine Company 294, both died.

The Ray Pfeifer Foundation was established in memory of an FDNY firefighter who died on May 28, 2017 from cancer related to 9/11. He was a leading force in lobbying to extend the Zadroga Act through 2090, ensuring health care coverage for 75,000 people who need, or will need, treatment for health conditions developed as a direct result of 9/11 exposure.

In March 2018, the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York reported that more than 170 firefighters had died as the result of illnesses related to the World Trade Center attacks. More than 50,000 people have illnesses linked to their exposure to toxins that were released after the towers collapsed.

Scientific evidence linking the attacks to cancer is still unsettled. Researchers studying illnesses among people exposed to the 9/11 dust cloud have found an unusual number of deaths from brain malignancies and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but fewer deaths than expected from other types of cancer.

Securing federal funding for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which covers medical treatment for 9/11 emergency personnel, has been a battle.

Luis Alvarez, a former New York City police detective who publicly fought for the fund, including an appearance in front of Congress near the end of his battle with colorectal cancer, died in June. He was 53.

In July, President Trump signed the “Never Forget the Heroes Act,” extending the compensation fund through 2092, and securing an additional $10.2 billion in payments over the next 10 years.

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Cancer in the Fire Service

Excerpts from the daily-chronicle.com:

The Cortland Fire Department deployed engines and other fire trucks full of Rick “Spider” Kramer’s brothers to wish him well in his ongoing battle with cancer. Everyone who was there gave their him a hug. Kramer spent 43 years as a firefighter, including 12 as a volunteer with the Cortland Fire Department, and he is currently the Fourth Ward alderman in Sycamore.

He started fighting stage 4 nasophyangeal cancer in May, which was originally thought to just be congestion and earaches. It’s been tough to say the least. Despite the rough road, he remains optimistic.

The department, made entirely of volunteers, presented the Kramers with an $8,700 check. $7,600 was raised during a recent benefit and the fire department donated the other $1,100 to the Pink Heals Tri-cities chapter.

The Kramers were overwhelmed by the showing in front of their house. They knew people were coming to present them with a check, but knowing and seeing were two different things for them.

Gloria Kramer said after Tuesday’s chemotherapy treatment, her husband will have a break, undergo some tests, and then sometime after that he’ll begin radiation treatments. She said the town of Sycamore has been very generous, and both the Cortland and Sycamore fire departments have been amazing.

Rick was taken aback by the support the Cortland firefighters and paramedics showed.

thanks Dorothy

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