If you are a firefighter, you know you have a job fraught with risks, but you may not have realized that mesothelioma is one of them. Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive type of cancer associated with asbestos exposure, and firefighters are about twice as likely to develop it than the general population, according to a study completed in 2015 by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Because asbestos was included in many building materials manufactured through the 1980s, you can be exposed to it at fires in people’s homes, local businesses or area industrial sites. As the asbestos filled products burn they break down, dispersing asbestos particles in the air and smoke.
In addition to your exposure at fires, you also can be exposed to asbestos at your fire hall from contamination on tools and gear or the construction materials of the hall itself. Some early firefighting gear was even made with asbestos.
According to the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, the following are a few of the best ways you can reduce the chance of developing several types of cancers associated with your job:
- Use your self-contained breathing apparatus in both active and post-fire situations
- Remove as much soot and particles from your equipment as possible before leaving the scene.
- Use a baby wipe to wash off as much soot off your body as possible before leaving the scene, and shower as soon as you are able to.
- Clean your gear and clothes immediately after a fire.
- Avoid bringing anything that could be contaminated into your home, vehicle or sleeping quarters.
It is also a good idea to schedule annual medical examinations and talk to your doctor about your possible exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma may take decades to develop, but it is important to detect it as early as possible.
If you have mesothelioma and you think it could be linked to your job as a firefighter, you may be able to receive compensation for your medical care through litigation. As a firefighter, you have a job that inherently includes many risks, but mesothelioma shouldn’t have to be one of them.