Mesothelioma Awareness for Firefighters
Cancer has quickly ascended the list of the most dangerous aspects of a firefighter’s career. With 61 percent of line-of-duty deaths from 2002 – 2016 being attributed to cancer, and an overall nine percent higher risk of cancer diagnosis than the general U.S. population, learning how to best protect firefighters from dangerous carcinogens is imperative.
Firefighters are more likely to develop mesothelioma because the cancer is caused by exposure to asbestos – in fact they are about twice as likely as the general population. Asbestos was used in many construction and home good products through much of the 20th century. The durable mineral is very resistant to heat and thus applied in many insulation and adhesion functions. Buildings and houses built before the 1970s are extremely likely to contain some form of asbestos. Fire and building collapses will send asbestos particles into the air where, unless following correct procedure, they may be inhaled or settle on the skin.
It is essential to wear an air mask throughout the entire process, even during overhaul. It may seem heavy at the time, but inhaling any microscopic carcinogens present in the air, including asbestos, formaldehyde, benzene and arsenic, will be worse in the long run. A firefighter could be exposed to asbestos in their twenties and not notice symptoms until well into their 60s or 70s.
Equally important is the need to prevent carcinogens from being absorbed into the skin by properly cleaning turnout gear – and your body – after every fire scene. Carcinogenic debris remaining on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) may again become airborne and inhaled or absorbed through the skin if not washed off. The skin’s permeability increases by 400 percent with every 5° increase in skin temperature, meaning the soot on your neck is more likely to absorb if not washed off when leaving the scene hot and sweaty.
Fire-Dex is committed to minimizing carcinogenic exposure and keeping firefighters safe from all dangers. In addition to our free online gear cleaning and maintenance trainings, we are continuously developing less permeable, more innovative, durable and breathable products. Our H41 Interceptor Hood made with DuPont™ Nomex® Nano Flex provides balanced breathability and protection. Essentially a filter of carcinogens and other contaminants, this hood blocks 98% of particulates at .2 microns in size, protecting firefighters in the present and securing a healthy future.