A recent study carried out by researchers at the University of Cincinnati highlighted the fact that firefighters are exposed to more danger than dying in a fire while rescuing persons inside - they are also more prone to develop health disorders, especially four types of cancer due to the chemical exposure they have to face everyday at their job.
Compared to people working in other fields, firefighters are more likely to develop testicular cancer, prostate cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma. Firemen have a 2 fold risk of developing testicular cancer and increased chances of developing the other 3 conditions, primarily due to their everyday high exposure to harmful chemicals, namely carcinogens, such as diesel engine exhaust, chloroform, soot, styrene, formaldehyde, benzene etc.
Grace LeMasters, Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Cincinnati who was involved in the study stated: "We believe there's a direct correlation between the chemical exposures firefighters experience on the job and their increased risk for cancer."
The findings of the current study have been published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and this has been one of the most exhaustive and the most comprehensive researches led on the subject, the University of Cincinatti team also including Egyptian and Puerto Rican scientists.
The UCI team analyzed 32 previous studies which comprised medical data of about 110,000 firefighters, white men, most of whom were working full-time. Overall results of the investigation showed that at least 50% of the studies analyzed provided evidence for firemen's increased risk of developing a wide range of serious conditions, such as testicular, prostate, skin, brain, rectum, stomach and colon cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, multiple myeloma and malignant melanoma. This leads to the conclusion that the protective equipment firefighters use when extinguishing different buildings which burst into fire is not that effective in warding off carcinogens and harmful factors.
James Lockey, MD, Professor of Environmental Health and Pulmonary Medicine at UC concluded: "There's a critical and immediate need for additional protective equipment to help firefighters avoid inhalation and skin exposures to known and suspected occupational carcinogens. In addition, firefighters should meticulously wash their entire body to remove soot and other residues from fires to avoid skin exposure."