Firefighters at Increased Risk of Cancer
Over the past few years, calls have been increasing for more protection to be put in place for firefighters. Research has found that they are being exposed to increasingly more harmful chemicals, and the rate of cancer has been rising in many fire fighters. In response to this, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) have launched a new nationwide database to analyse more closely the potential link between exposure to fire toxicants and the increased risk of cancer.
Why are firefighters more at risk of occupational cancer?
The research that has been carried out has highlighted the ways in which firefighters are placed in a much more dangerous position of developing cancer due to the items that they are required to touch when carrying out their job. Dangerous chemicals can be absorbed through their skin when they are handling contaminated clothing and equipment. This can occur especially if uniforms and equipment have not been appropriately cleaned after use. Some of the dangerous chemicals that firefighters are left exposed to if the correct precautions have not been carried out include:
Studies have also found that, specifically, firefighters in the age categories of 30-49 have a significant excess risk of developing prostate cancer and skin melanoma. The link to thyroid, blood and bone cancer due to the contaminants that exist in the dirt and dust left on the equipment used by firefighters has also been found to be considerable. A number of medical academics have more recently published papers to attempt to understand how firefighters can be supported in protecting themselves from the dangers. In November of 2020, a paper was published in the Journal of Cancer Education entitled ‘Firefighter Occupational Cancer Risk: Starting the Conversation.’ In it, Tracy Hardy conducted a study to try and determine if educational sessions would help firefighters to have more open conversations with their superiors about providing better protection.
How can firefighters better protect themselves?
Some straightforward ways in which firefighters can reduce their own risk include:
- Removing their contaminated gear as soon as they return from a call.
- Ensuring that their gear is cleaned thoroughly on a regular basis and stored in a place that will prevent it from further contamination.
- Wash and decontaminate their body as soon as possible in order to remove further exposure and prevent taking any contaminants into their home.
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What is the FCDR?
The FCDR stands for the UK Firefighters Cancer and Disease Registry, and it is a database that is designed to collect information on firefighter’s work routines, their exposure to fire effluents, their lifestyle and their health. From this, it is hoped that scientists will be able to identify and recognise most common cancers and diseases that are related to firefighter’s work and, from this research, offer health screenings, education, and support that will better protect firefighter’s health. The project was initiated and co-sponsored by the FBU and clinicians working at the Royal Preston Hospital and will allow them to analyse data on a long-term basis.
Starting a Firefighter Compensation Claim
If you have developed illness or suffered injury because of your time spent in the fire service, then you might be able to claim compensation. Although the fire service is a specialist occupation, the guidelines for maintaining as safe an environment as possible still apply for the workplace. If you have suffered an injury or developed an illness due to your occupation, then our industrial disease specialists will be able to help you.
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