Did you know that according to the Firefighter Cancer Support Network ("FCSN"), cancer is the second leading cause of death for firefighters in the U.S.? Did you also know that firefighters are 9% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer and 14% more likely to die from cancer compared to the general population? If the answer was no, that's ok, but as we kick off the new year and set our intentions, let's take a moment to think of goals we can achieve that not only help ourselves but the community around us, in this case, our firefighters.
An easy way to ensure we are hitting this goal is to take part in Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month, which happens to be in the month of January. Firefighters around the country use Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month to check in with each other to help raise awareness in their communities about the health hazards they face while working the job and its potentially deadly consequences.
As a law firm that is designed and dedicated to fighting for the people, we also want to extend our hand to firefighters across the nation and help bring awareness to the importance of Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month.
Firefighters and the Risk of Cancer
As previously mentioned, cancer is the second leading cause of death for firefighters in the United States, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC"), firefighters have both a 9% higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14% higher risk of dying from cancer than the general population. Unfortunately, these stats arrive from firefighters having to work with or being exposed to hazardous materials at fire sites like asbestos, or firefighting foam.
The Most Common Forms of Cancers Firefighters Develop
According to the International Association of Fire Fighters ("IAFF"), in 2023, nearly 63% of fallen firefighters added to the Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial passed due to occupational cancer. As mentioned, firefighters frequently work with hazardous materials; one example includes aqueous film-forming foam ("AFFF"), more commonly known as firefighting foam. AFFF is used to put out high-intensity fires, and while it is incredibly useful, the foam contains dangerous chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances ("PFAS").
PFAS are considered "forever chemicals" because they are nearly indestructible and, over time, can build up in the body and many types of cancers, including, but not limited to:
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Pancreatic cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Renal or kidney cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Thyroid disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Uterine or endometrial cancer
Exposure to PFAS has also been linked to hormone disruption, liver and thyroid problems, interference with vaccine effectiveness, reproductive harm, and abnormal fetal development. Firefighters also run an increased risk of developing Mesothelioma. According to a study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health ("NIOSH"), firefighters are twice as likely to develop Mesothelioma than the general U.S. population.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and highly dangerous form of cancer that is found around the lining of the lungs, abdomen, heart, or testes. Typically, Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that is resistant to heat and corrosion and is a known human carcinogen. In the early stages of Mesothelioma, patients often experience symptoms like dry coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, abdominal pain, and fluid buildup around the lungs.
If you have experienced these symptoms after working with AFFF or have been exposed to asbestos, we highly recommend you speak with a medical professional. For more information behind cancer-causing materials, or if you have been diagnosed with Mesothelioma, contact a Morgan & Morgan attorney today.
Steps on How Firefighters Can Reduce Their Risks of Cancer
On the Fireground/Station:
- Establish hot, warm, and cold zones on the fireground; read more here.
- Wear protective gear while on the fairgrounds, including boots, gloves, helmets, turnout gear, and SCBA.
- Remove as much soot as possible from the head, neck, jaw, throat, underarms, and hands immediately and while still on the scene.
- Keep a designated area for everything contaminated that needs to be decontaminated.
- When decontaminating, wear proper PPE to minimize exposure.
- Change clothes and wash them immediately after a fire.
- Do not take contaminated clothes or PPE home.
- Reduce or eliminate the use of tobacco and alcohol.
- Maintain a healthy routine for fitness, nutrition, sleep, and personal hygiene.
If you are a firefighter, it's highly recommended you keep in contact with your doctor to learn more about what you can do to reduce the risk of developing cancer. For more information, contact a Morgan & Morgan attorney today.
What You Can Do During Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month
What if you're not a firefighter and are looking for ways to get involved during Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month? Well, if you are not a firefighter or are no longer in the line of service but still want to be involved, here are a few simple ways you can help spread the word all month long. You can consider getting involved by:
- Donate to cancer research organizations like the Mesothelioma Research Foundation or the FCSN.
- Participate in local training programs to learn more about handling toxic substances and safely reducing exposure to firefighters.
- Contact your local policymakers and demand disability benefits for firefighters with occupational cancers.
- Contact your local fire department and learn more about what you can do to help your local firefighters.
If you are unable to participate in person, that is just fine! You can join in the conversion online and spread awareness by using the hashtags #FFCancerMonth #FightFFCancer on your social media accounts. Connect with your friends, loved ones, and others online or on the phone to hear their survival stories. Don't stop there. You can learn more about what you can do to get involved this month by visiting https://firefightercancersupport.org.
While January is designated as Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month, our actions to raise awareness should happen all year long. If you are a firefighter or know a fighter fighter who has been diagnosed with cancer, we may be able to help you. For more information, contact a Morgan & Morgan attorney today by completing our free, no-obligation case evaluation form. For over 35 years, our law firm has helped thousands get the justice they deserve after they've been diagnosed with cancer, and we want to help you, too. See why millions trust Morgan & Morgan; contact us today.