Posts Tagged study shows firefighters have high risk of cancer

Cancer message for firefighters (more)

From NFFF:

There’s no question that the number of firefighters affected by cancer is on the rise. That’s why prevention is critical. But many firefighters may not follow the advice of researchers and experts because they think it will never happen to them.

“No matter who you are. No matter where you are. No matter what type of a firefighter you are. You are subjected to cancer-causing agents,” Chief Ernest Mitchell, Jr., U.S. Fire Administrator

Firefighters and authorities who’ve dealt with cancer first-hand or who’ve watched others battle it share their stories in “The Silent Killer: Firefighter Cancer”. Hear what they have to say about why cancer-prevention is so important.


“It has nothing to do with what size department you’re with. Even the frequency of the emergency calls you’re on,
because it only takes one.”

– Chief Dennis Compton, Chairman of the Board, NFFF

Tags: , , , ,

Cancer message for firefighters (more)

Video from the Boston FD and the Boston Globe

Three city firefighters painted a grim portrait as they sat in front of a wall plastered with images of their fallen comrades. These colleagues did not perish in a raging fire or after falling into a collapsing building. They all succumbed to cancer.

Tags: , , ,

Cancer message for firefighters (more)

Excerpts from

It’s a tough anniversary for a family to mark. It’s two years since the passing of Miami-Dade Fire Captain Rafael Herrero.

“The rate of cancer we are seeing in our fire department is huge and that made us start looking at what could it be,” says Captain Shane Anderson.

Researchers said firefighters across South Florida are in a battle against cancer, including alarming numbers of thyroid, colon and brain cancer. Now all eyes are turning to the firefighters’ personal protective gear. In the spotlight is how to improve it, clean it and store it.

“We found that we were storing the gear wrong. Most everybody in the country was but what we found out is that two things were a big factor. The way this stuff is made. The seams that are in it. The glues that are used off gas. You want to protect the firefighter with gear that is going to help them in a dangerous environment. But you also want to make sure that we are storing it correctly so that the chemicals that are used don’t hurt them down the road as well, ” said Anderson.

… stored gear is now removed from all plastic packaging and boxing and shaded from artificial light. “We found out is that ultra violet light is one of the worst things for firefighter gear. So you deal with two things,” he added.

Ultimately responsible for armoring up the county’s firefighters is Chief Foy Jenkins. He is ever mindful that South Florida firefighters have only one set of personal protection gear a piece. If fires are back to back there may not be enough time to fully decontaminate the gear. Foy is crunching numbers to see if back up gear per firefighter can be purchased in the future.

The spotlight is now shifting to the personal protective hood, a potential catch-all for contaminants and carcinogens. [previously] the firefighters were issued only one. Now a second one will be available to them. “If they have a hood, they can come to support and they can get a new one. So they have two now,” said Anderson.

Reminders are everywhere that clean gear is the new normal. Fading is the culture of a soot-laden uniform being a badge of honor. “The guys wanted to look veteran.I understand that . I was one of those guys,”said Jenkins.

“I think there has definitely been a shift. I don’t think everybody buys into it yet … Yes I do believe there has been a shift in the dynamics of what we are talking about,” shared Keith Tyson who is a retired Miami Dade firefighter and cancer survivor. He is largely credited with bringing awareness to the risk of cancer in firehouse and after the firehouse.

“I don’t want anybody to go through what I have been through, what my brothers and sisters are going through.” Tyson recently returned from Boston where firefighters are adding up their cancer casualties.

“The bad news…some of the numbers where every three weeks a member was being diagnosed with some sort of severe type of cancer. The good news is they reached out to us,” Tyson said. “We developed a 90 minute program being taught to over 1,400 members of their department over the next two months and that is huge!”

They are lessons and legacies keeping alive the memory and mission of brothers and sisters not forgotten.

It appears those beloved lives were not lost in vain. Their stories helped to spearhead efforts that are resulting in more than $900 thousand being funneled by the state for pioneering research into links between firefighting and cancer. University of Miami researchers will be helming the project as firefighters from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties are in the spotlight.

More posts about cancer in the fire service can be found HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Tags: , , , , ,

Cancer message for firefighters (more)

Excerpts from

Cancer awareness in the fire service has risen to new levels. The slate of new studies connecting the increased incidence of certain cancers among firefighters, particularly at younger ages, is placing emphasis on a variety of new practices related to post-fire hygiene.

Among these is that turnout clothing is a continuing exposure to potential carcinogenic substances encountered during structure fires unless it is properly cleaned. That in itself is a significant challenge because many fire departments are simply not used to or prepared for cleaning turnout gear on a regular basis.

Even those departments that have the luxury of multiple sets of gear to rotate out after a fire often cannot perform cleaning at the frequency now being demanded. Other emerging procedures such as gross decontamination performed outside the fireground are being implemented to help reduce contamination and limited its transfer to the apparatus, fire station or an individual’s vehicle if used to transport the gear.

The fire service has a long way to go for implementing new hygienic procedures and philosophies; however, the directions being taken in several organizations are very promising.

Where we are
The cleaning of turnout clothing has evolved over the past two to three decades as fire departments have come to embrace the need to have regular cleaning. Work originated by several firefighter safety groups including FIERO, NAFER, CAFER, and SAFER back in the early 1990s led to the development of NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Structural Firefighting Protective Ensembles, which set cleaning requirements.

Those early experiences established parameters for how turnout clothing was cleaned, in terms of the procedures for handling, types of machines, detergent pH and temperatures used in washing and drying. Surprisingly, very little information has been added to the standard to further qualify the different cleaning processes.

This is despite that there have been very large changes in the laundering industry that we all observe whenever we go out to buy a new washer and dryer. Further, there are emerging new processes such as the use of ozone, carbon dioxide-based dry cleaning, and a variety of different machines and cleansing agents that are being touted for better removal of soils from turnout clothing.

Measurable process
The industry for proper cleaning of turnout clothing cannot properly advance until the metrics are in place to gauge the effectiveness of any particular process. The ability to measure and verify that cleaning has taken place and in particular the removal of contaminants is needed to ensure that all the existing and new practices work as expected.

Finally, some progress is being made in this area. The Fire Protection Research Foundation, which is associated with the National Fire Protection Association, formally launched a project in May to establish methods for verifying cleaning of turnout clothing and specifically show the removal of harmful contaminants.

While this effort may seem like a science project for chemistry majors, it is actually a relatively difficult problem.

Part of this problem stems from the fact that in any given fire, there can be thousands of different combustion products given the construction and contents of the structure. Some of these chemicals pose serious problems and others do not.

And since no two fires are alike, trying to look for certain chemicals can be confounded by the vast number present and, without a Star Trek tricorder, there is no universal method and instrument for their analysis.

Further complicating the matter is sampling the clothing. To precisely measure low levels of contaminants in clothing, pieces must be removed. And since the contamination is not uniform over the entire item, some logic has to be applied as to where to take the pieces from and then generalize the results for the overall item.

Most of the techniques that are applied by analytical laboratories are usually applied to soil or water samples to quantify environmental contaminants, some of the same substances that are carcinogens in fire smoke, but these methods are not entirely effective for testing turnout clothing.

The new project is based on developing a methodology that can be applied anywhere for assessing whether key fireground contaminants have been removed by whatever machine, cleaning agent or process.

For this to work, they must develop a means for contaminating clothing samples uniformly in the laboratory with a set of representative substances, inserting these samples into surrogate full clothing items and then washing the full clothing using whatever cleaning procedures are to be applied.

The previously contaminated material samples can then be removed from the clothing and analyzed for contamination levels to determine if the substances have been removed.

Replicating the fireground
The key part of this is to contaminate the material samples in the laboratory in a way that simulates how clothing is typically exposed — especially to the array of fire gas chemicals and carbon particles in smoke — rather than just simply soaking the material in a liquid chemical mixture.

To this end, the research foundation contractor has proposed using pellets comprised of known chemical substances and carbon and burning these pellets in a high-temperature furnace with the effluent swept over the material samples. A significant amount of validation work must be done to demonstrate that these procedures represent field contamination and also can be consistently applied to determine cleaning effectiveness.

If successful, specific cleaning equipment, agents and processes can be evaluated to determine which wash conditions are best at removing specific carcinogens or skin-absorption toxins. Just as important, differences in equipment type, wash temperature and detergent chemistry can be evaluated to identify the optimum conditions.

Having these procedures can bring us closer to an envisioned time when independent service providers can be qualified for having appropriate equipment and procedures to remove turnout clothing contamination in the same manner that these organizations are now verified for repair capabilities.

Collateral damage
One of the consequences of more frequent cleaning, even verified cleaning, is that turnout clothing will be subjected to more wear and tear that will likely shorten its service life. Although it seems difficult to accept, laundering can shorten the life of turnout clothing relatively rapidly and in some cases adversely lower its performance.

This means that not only must cleaning processes be verified for removing soils and contamination, they also must be evaluated to show that unusual clothing degradation does not occur when the cleaning process is applied regularly — more than once or twice a year.

Clearly, keeping clothes clean is not the overall answer for minimizing firefighter exposures to carcinogens. These exposures occur in a variety of different ways.

Still, by ensuring the removal of persistent contamination that is possibly linked to adverse health effects, at least one avenue of firefighter hygiene is dramatically improved.

Tags: , ,

Study reviews increased cancer risk for firefighters

An article on talks about a higher than normal risk of cancer for firefighters.

new study reveals a surprising link between firefighters and cancer. Nearly 15,000 of them were included in this research, and the results could lead to some big changes in the way firefighters do their jobs.

A newly released study looked at 30,000 firefighters from three departments: Chicago, San Francisco  and Philadelphia over nearly 60  years.

The conclusion, according to Tom Ryan, president of the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2: “Our cancer levels will be higher than the average person.”

Chicago firefighters are two and half times more likely to develop mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos. They also have a higher rate of digestive and respiratory cancers and develop kidney, bladder and prostate cancers far younger than the average age of 65. …  chemicals released when modern-day materials burn and are breathed in. They may also be absorbed through the skin, even away from the fire.

A companion study recommends keeping gear outside the truck after fighting a fire and then storing it in its own ventilated room at the station. Firefighters should also shower immediately after.

More than 30 types of cancer were examined in this research … later this year … a second phase of the study will be released that should give a better idea of how exposures to certain chemicals might lead to specific cancers.

thanks Dan

Tags: , ,