In 2010, NIOSH set out to conduct a comprehensive multi-year study which included over 30,000 fire fighters from the Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco Fire Departments employed between 1950 and 20120. The researchers considered a multitude of factors as they set out to examine if fire fighters have an increased risk of developing cancer as a result of job related exposures. The study found that firefighters did in fact have greater risk of cancer diagnosis and death, especially with cancers relating to the respiratory, digestive and genitourinary systems. View the findings here. A comprehensive review of study documents and timelines can be viewed here.
A Study of Cancer Among United States Firefighters
Firefighters are exposed to a wide variety of toxic chemicals. Previous studies have reported excess risk of some cancers but have been limited by small numbers or little information on employment characteristics. This is a retrospective cohort mortality study among 7,789 Philadelphia firefighters employed between 1925 and 1986. Through review of the data, there was increased mortality for cancers of the colon and kidney, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. (2001)
Risk of Cancer Among Firefighters in California, 1988–2007
This is one of the first studies to include an examination of firefighter risk for subtypes of leukemia, esophageal cancer and lung cancer, and cancer risks among firefighters of other races/ethnicities. The study sample included 3,996 firefighters. Among the 32 examined cancers, three were significantly elevated among all firefighters combined and among firefighters in both race groups. These three cancers were melanoma, prostate cancer, and brain cancer. Three cancers were significantly elevated among all firefighters combined and among white firefighters: adenocarcinoma of the esophagus; non-specific, non-small cell lung cancer; and, acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Three cancers were significantly elevated among all firefighters combined and firefighters of other race/ethnicity: kidney cancer, multiple myeloma, and overall leukemia. There were six cancers that were significantly elevated among firefighters of other race/ethnicity only: tongue cancer, testicular cancer, bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).
Taking Action Against Cancer in the Fire Service
In 2013, the Firefighter Cancer Support Network assembled a team of experts with the goal of developing a white paper examining the issue of cancer within the fire service. This report addresses prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and the long-term implications for the firefighter, the firefighter’s family, their coworkers, the fire department and community policy. (2013)
Cancer Risk Among Firefighters: A Review and Meta-Analysis of 32 Studies
The objective of this study was to review 32 studies on firefighters and to quantitatively and qualitatively determine the cancer risk using a meta-analysis. The results confirm previous findings of an elevated risk for multiple myeloma among firefighters. In addition, a probable association with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, prostate, and testicular cancer was demonstrated. (2006)
Understanding the Health Hazards of Smoke for Wildland Firefighters
The Fire Sciences Laboratory in Missoula conducted a series of laboratory and field studies to determine the components of vegetative smoke and conducted studies of employee exposure at prescribed and wildland fires. A list of recommendations for risk management was developed, including training and tactics, monitoring, health maintenance, respiratory protection, medical surveillance, and additional research.
The aims of this study were to examine mortality and cancer among firefighters and investigate different subgroups, based on type of employment, duration of firefighting service, era of first employment/service, serving before/including or only after 1985, by the number of incidents attended and whether an individual was identified as having been a trainer. For male career full-time firefighters compared to the Australian population, overall cancer incidence was significantly raised for the group as a whole and for those who had worked for longer than 20 years. (2014)
Cancer Morbidity of Professional Emergency Responders in Korea
Many professional emergency responders (ERs) who belong to the Korean National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) have been cross-trained and serve multiple roles. As such, firefighters and other ERs in Korea are exposed to similar occupational hazards. This study was conducted to estimate cancer morbidity in male ERs and compare that with Korean men. Korean firefighters showed excess morbidity in several cancer types, including colorectal and urologic cancers, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, demonstrating similar trends to previous studies for firefighters conducted in other countries. (2012)
This article aims to highlight the importance of the dermal exposure and absorption route in occupational settings, identify some of the factors that influence exposure and absorption, and describe methods currently used for the measurement and assessment of dermal exposure.
Typically, when someone dies in a fire, it’s attributed to the nebulous cause of “smoke inhalation.” In truth, it’s more complicated than that – we just haven’t been looking at it the right way. We haven’t really digested the combustion chemistry to truly understand why the smoke is so nasty. Understanding the basics of combustion chemistry is the first step toward gaining a new respect for an old foe.