Working as a California firefighter may prove both rewarding and dangerous. Firefighting is hazardous by nature and presents numerous immediate risks for firefighters. There are also long-term risks associated with smoke inhalation.
According to the American Lung Association, firefighters often undergo exposure to harmful gases, chemicals and smoke, all of which have the capacity to impact lung health.
Why firefighters face a heightened risk of lung disease
When certain materials burn, they expel harmful toxins into the air. Some of the toxic agents many firefighters encounter in their line of work include carbon monoxide, benzene, asbestos and hydrogen cyanide, among others. When firefighters face long-term exposure to these substances, they become more likely to develop asthma, allergies, hoarseness and other chronic issues involving the lungs. Firefighters also face an elevated risk of lung cancer. Long-term exposure to diesel and related substances may heighten firefighter cancer risks even further.
How lung disease impacts firefighter health
When a firefighter starts to develop lung disease, he or she may notice both short- and long-term effects. Short-term effects associated with smoke inhalation include coughing and wheezing. Afflicted individuals may also experience bronchitis. They may also see lung issues they already have, such as asthma, become progressively worse. Long-term exposure to smoke inhalation has the potential to lead to an increased risk of cancer and a heightened risk of COPD.
Firefighters should be able to reduce their risks to some extent by always wearing proper protective equipment and cleaning it all promptly after use. Smoking or vaping also exacerbates lung disease risks for firefighters, so quitting plays a vital role in maintaining optimal lung health.