Firefighters work hard to keep everyone in their community safe, which is why it’s heartbreaking to hear about how many firefighters have developed mesothelioma as a result of being exposed to asbestos while on the job.
For decades asbestos was used because of its fire retardant properties. This means that not only were firefighters rushing into buildings that were full of asbestos, the protective clothing they wore was also made with asbestos.
Most were exposed while fighting fires within old buildings or when they carried tiny asbestos fibers back the firehouse on their protective clothing.
The Risk Firefighters Take
When they accept the job, firefighters know they’re endangering their respiratory health. Not only are they willingly entering a smoke filled environment, the air they inhale is several degrees hotter than it should be and there is no way of knowing just how many toxins, including asbestos, have been released into the air by the flames. The older the building, the greater the risk that the firefighters are inhaling a dangerous cocktail of toxins.
In an effort to keep firefighters as safe as possible. Educational programs about asbestos and how to minimize the risk have become a regular part of most firefighters lives. They’re also encouraged to be screened for exposure to asbestos.
Minimize your Risk
If you’re a professional or volunteer firefighter, there are things you can do to minimize the amount of asbestos you inhale while working to put out a fire. These tips include:
- Washing all clothing before leaving the scene of the fire. It takes some time, but it means you’re not transporting any potentially deadly fibers back to the firehouse.
- Use water or heavy spray to weigh down asbestos particles before starting to work in a particular section of a burning building.
- Always wear your breathing apparatus.
- Be on the lookout for materials that traditionally contain asbestos.
9/11 First Responders
Everyone’s heart twisted when they watched the World Trade Center buildings collapse on September 11th. We grieved and continue to grieve for the lives of those who were unable to escape that day. At the time, we didn’t realize that the giant cloud of dust and rubble from the collapsing buildings being released into the air would generate such huge problems for the firefighters and other first responders who were working at Ground Zero and inhaling the asbestos-laden air.
Any firefighters who were near the World Trade Center buildings on that tragic day needs to make mesothelioma screenings a regular part of their life. In addition to the health benefits that are received by firefighters, the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act now covers more than 50 different types of cancers, including mesothelioma.