Firefighters and cancer


JOPLIN, Mo. — Fire fighters now have their own month of observance, but it’s not for what you probably think.

Firefighters put their lives on the line every day. Fighting fires on a daily basis. But many of them are fight much more than flames

David Hayes – Battalion Chief Of Reddings Mill Fire Department, said, “Fire fighters in the studies have shown that we’re one and half to two times more likely to get cancer than the general public.”

The International Association of Firefighters and the Firefighter Cancer Support Network declared January as Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month. Throughout the month they will promote awareness and possible methods to reduce the risk of cancer.

Dr. Chance Matthiesen – Freeman Health System Director of Radiation Oncology, said, “Firefighters, obviously, just by nature of their work, their exposed to a lot of things. Obviously smoke is one of them.”

It’s not just the smoke that’s bad for their lungs, but the toxins on their gear coming back from the fire.

“For our department, the policies are in place of if your gear gets anything on it that would be toxic, be it smoke, or blood or anything else, it comes back and goes through the extractor washers and is dried out,” said Hayes.

David Hayes adds that his firefighters are also required to take a shower within an hour of getting back from a fire. But Doctor Chance Matthiesen says sometimes a shower just isn’t enough.

“There can be other particles of buildings which do settle on the skin, they can get into the eyes, they can get into the ears, and we know that certain type of particles just with continual exposure to the body absorption, many of those have cancer causing potential,” said Matthiesen.

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