Firefighters are quite important to the community since they protect people against fires and other perils. Unfortunately, firefighters face many safety and health risks. When people think of the different safety and health risks firefighters face, they often think of hazards such as burns, crush injuries from collapsing buildings, and smoke inhalation. Indeed, all these are risks that need to be acknowledged. However, apart from these well-known risks, firefighters face unique asbestos exposure risks. While a firefighter’s set of soot-covered overalls is a sign of a brave and proud firefighter, it is also a sign of potentially deadly asbestos contamination.
How are Firefighters Exposed to Asbestos?
During the 20th century, asbestos-contaminated materials were widely used in buildings. Most manufacturers only phased out the use of asbestos after its link to fatal illnesses was publicly revealed. However, despite the phasing out, the toxic substance remains in millions of old buildings across America.
When an asbestos-contaminated building burns, asbestos-containing materials may be disturbed, leading to the release of asbestos fibers. Asbestos fibers in the air pose a huge risk to firefighters because when inhaled or ingested, asbestos fibers can lead to fatal diseases.
Some common asbestos-containing building materials include;
- Duct, pipe, and attic insulation
- Cement floors
- Floor tiles
- Roofing materials
- Insulation for boilers, homes, appliances, and furnaces
It is important to note that asbestos exposure can occur even after a fire. During clean-up efforts, disturbed and broken asbestos materials and debris still pose a threat to firefighters and other people nearby.
Common Asbestos-Related Diseases Among Firefighters
One of the most common asbestos-related diseases among firefighters is mesothelioma, a rare and fatal type of cancer. Other asbestos-caused cancers that affect firefighters include;
- Ovarian cancer
- Lung cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Stomach cancer
Apart from cancer, asbestos can lead to non-cancerous diseases like;
- Pleural plaques
- Pleural effusions
Firefighters Were Exposed to Asbestos During 9/11
On September 11, 2001, firefighters and first responders were put at risk of asbestos exposure when they responded to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center’s twin towers. Some firefighters and first responders who rushed to get to the scene and save people did not wear protective gear, including respirators. Unfortunately, this increased their risk of inhaling cancer-causing substances such as asbestos. According to the CDC, 52% of the New York City firefighters at the 9/11 scene were not wearing any respiratory protection during the twin towers collapse, and 38% of those arriving later the same day wore no respirator.
Regular Screening and Compensation
Firefighters need to undergo regular screenings and medical exams, as these can help with the early detection of illnesses. Fortunately, firefighters who develop diseases like mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure can seek financial compensation against negligent parties that led to their asbestos exposure. Also, family members who lose a loved one can file a wrongful death claim.
Nationwide Mesothelioma Lawyers
If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our office to speak to one of our experienced mesothelioma attorneys about your situation. Our office can help investigate your case and determine if compensation can be sought from negligent parties to help pay for your medical treatment.