Mesothelioma, testicular cancer, pancreatic cancer: they’re just a few of the serious illnesses that strike firefighters as a result of doing their job. The town of Watertown, Massachusetts just lost its 51-year old fire chief to pancreatic cancer, and it’s forced a reckoning for members of the Watertown Fire Department and the town as a whole.
Firefighters’ risk of being diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma is twice that of the general population. The same is true of testicular cancer, and they have a 1.5 times greater chance of being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma or multiple myeloma. The reason is clear: the debris and building materials that they’re exposed to are releasing toxic chemicals as they burn, and the firefighters are inhaling these carcinogens and absorbing them through their skin. Joseph Landry is fire chief in nearby Stow, and he says, “It’s in every fire department. Everything you go to you’re exposing the guys and the firefighters to these carcinogens every time. It’s not just a piece of wood that they cut off a tree anymore. It’s particle board with glues that hold them together, and when the glues break down they are all just chemicals that go in the air.”
Cancers like mesothelioma account for a greater percentage of line-of-duty deaths among firefighters than anything else, and according to the acting fire chief in Watertown, the increase in the rate of cancer deaths in the last several years has been exponential. In response, the department has already purchased a piece of equipment known as an extractor which washes toxic chemicals out of suits after they’ve been worn at a fire scene. They now need another expensive piece of equipment that will dry the suits more quickly so that firefighters are more apt to have clean suits: they’d also like to purchase an extra set of firefighting suits to make it even more likely that nobody will wear a contaminated suit when they go out on a call.
If you or someone you love has been exposed to asbestos, you need to know what legal protections and rights are available to you. Contact us today at 1-800-966-2244 to speak to an experienced professional who can give you the guidance you need.