We think of firefighters as being our first line of defense against many disasters, and now the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are viewing them as first responders against mesothelioma and other cancers too. The agency’s occupational branch, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is asking the nation’s 1.1 million firefighters to sign up for a voluntary registry that is specifically meant to help track and understand how cancer impacts their population: the effort is being undertaken in an effort to better protect firefighters and others whose work puts them in direct contact with asbestos and other carcinogenic materials.
When firefighters rush into a burning building, their focus is not on their risk of mesothelioma or other illnesses: they are instead entirely dedicated to saving lives and preserving property. Unfortunately, with so many buildings in the United States having been constructed using asbestos-contaminated materials, when they catch fire dangerous asbestos fibers become airborne, thus putting first responders at risk for inhaling them. Because of this, firefighters have a much higher incidence of asbestos-related diseases and other cancers than is true of the rest of the population. This is why the CDC is establishing a voluntary registry: they want to be able to track firefighters health not only to better understand the risks involved, but also create better protections for these professionals.
Speaking of the reality of being diagnosed with mesothelioma and other cancers, Wilmette, Illinois Fire Chief Ben Wozney describes attending funerals for former colleagues, and says that he warns those who report to him of hidden dangers all the time. “With all of today’s plastics and other synthetic building materials, firefighters are at a much higher risk of exposure to inhaling these types of toxins than the generations who came before us,” Wozney said. “I always go back to the old adage, ‘if you smell it, you’re in it,’ so firefighters truly need to protect themselves as much as possible.”
The call for a voluntary registry follows a survey that was conducted by NIOSH a few years ago, which tracked the health of 30,000 firefighters in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Chicago. That research concluded that firefighters are at higher risk for lung cancers, digestive cancers, oral cancers, and urinary system cancers, all as a result of exposure to asbestos and other carcinogenic materials.
If you were previously exposed to asbestos and have since been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, or any other asbestos-related disease, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us today at 1-800-966-2244 to learn more about how we can help.