Chances are, you understood that the firefighting profession was a dangerous one when you decided to become a California firefighter, but you may have been most concerned about the injuries you could potentially sustain during firefighting. At Lewis, Marenstein, Wicke, Sherwin & Lee, LLP, we recognize that, while today’s firefighters face substantial injury risks, they also face a heightened risk of developing work-related cancer.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, today’s firefighters are 9% more likely to develop cancer than the rest of the general population, and they are also 14% more likely to die because of something cancer-related. The nature of your profession suggests that you regularly undergo exposure to contaminants, and some of these known contaminants have cancer-causing properties.
When you don your personal protective equipment, you do so in an effort to protect yourself, but contaminants can come in contact with your firefighting apparel, and they can then cross-contaminate other substances or surfaces. While cleaning your personal protective equipment frequently and thoroughly may reduce your risk of developing lung cancer or other types of cancer to some degree, many questions remain about the best ways to do so, and just how clean might be “clean enough” to prevent contaminant exposure.
Additionally, while firefighter gear is a common, known source of contamination, other tools or equipment used in firefighting, such as firehouses, for example, can also come into contact with contaminants, thereby increasing your cancer risk. While the cancer risks faced by firefighters are considerable, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working to help protect firefighters by monitoring the prevalence of cancer within the industry. You can find out more about work-related injuries and illnesses on our webpage.