Improving fire fighter health and safety
First responders are asked to perform in the world’s most treacherous scenarios with a growing range of health and safety concerns. These threatening environments expose first responders to the detrimental health risks of carcinogens that cause heart, lung and skin cancer. In a 2009 study published in the occupational and environmental medicine journal, researchers found that more than two-thirds of firefighters – 68 percent – develop cancer, compared to about 22 percent for the general population, no matter the race or gender.
The prevalence of cardiovascular illness, physical strain and even death among firefighters illustrates the need for a comprehensive health and wellness program in every department.
Fire Departments need more communication on best practices to exercise around the firehouse, how to eat right and deal with the stress. The best action is proactive behavioral methods to ensure fire fighters stay informed about firefighter health to avoid the injuries and illnesses, such as heart disease, that are common killers in the fire service.
In 2013 the Taking Action against Cancer in the Fire Service report fundamentally changed how first responder perceive health issues. The biggest breakthrough in this document is the confirmation that carcinogens are not only inhaled into our lungs, but absorbed through our skin. Volunteer fire fighters face a more difficult challenge because they often use their personal car to transport themselves to the fire scene. The transport of contaminated PPE exposes themselves and their families to the harmful carcinogens that cause health concerns.
Encouraging fire departments to adopt a physical fitness program affords numerous benefits such as lower cholesterol and blood pressure, greater strength and stamina, weight reduction, reduced stress, and decreased risk of injury or disease.
Additional focus on the issue of health & wellness is needed. With the Smart Firefighting community, First responders can lead the charge with sustainable procedures and technology adoptions technologies to effectively live in a safe and healthy environment.
For Immediate Release DHS S&T Press Office, Gwen Bausmith, (202) 254-2296 WASHINGTON - A new suite of personal protective equipment (PPE) may provide additional protection for firefighters from exposure to carcinogenic vapors and particulate matter at incident sites.