UK firefighters surveyed as part of University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) research were four times more likely to have been diagnosed with cancer than the general population. It’s thought that firefighter’s exposure to those toxic substances could be playing a part in their increased risk of getting cancer and other diseases.
The new training launched by the union DECON encourages firefighters to take actions before, during, and after every fire incident to help reduce their own, their co-workers’ and their families’ exposure to these toxic substances.
DECON encourages firefighters to change simple behaviours, such as better cleaning practices around fire kit and firefighters. One of the difficulties is a long-standing culture in the fire service where dirty kit is viewed as a ‘badge of honour’ and worn with pride – putting health at risk.
Helping save firefighters lives
The launch of the training, on 7 September, comes in the same week as the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Since the disaster, US studies have revealed firefighters who attended have an increased risk of cancer and other diseases and are eligible for government funded compensation.
Riccardo la Torre, National Officer at the Fire Brigades Union, said “Most firefighters will know a colleague who is battling, or has battled, with cancer. It affects us all in the fire service and can be devastating. This training aims to help to make this less frequent. We’re looking forward to seeing it in action and hopefully helping save lives.”
Firefighter Sid McNally contracted cancer and believes it may have been caused by his work as a firefighter. He said: “There’s lots of cancer risks you can have as a member of the public. I simply don’t have any of those. I just believe I was working in an environment that didn’t do me any good. You do get drawn into that work environment and you think that that’s all that matters but you have got a life outside of the fire and rescue service, and to make the most of that you need to be alive.”
Earlier this year, AirMed&Rescue spoke to experts involved in aerial firefighting research and active service, finding out more about the latest assets and resources that Colorado is pioneering to reduce risks to crews.