Adopting a practical approach to reducing firefighter cancer
Personal accountability, situational awareness, education and strong leadership are familiar concepts in the fire service for reducing line-of-duty deaths. On the second day of the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Symposium, these same themes recurred during presentations, workshops and discussions for preventing the incidence of cancer among firefighters.
Since 1990, the Boston Fire Department has experienced 199 cancer-related deaths, Fire Commissioner Joseph E. Finn told the audience. In May of this year, three more firefighters were diagnosed with the disease and he approved presumptive disability claims for five others due to their cancer. Adopting a proactive approach to preventing cancer has become his mission.
“I hit them on the personal accountability level. Our lieutenants, captains and chiefs aren’t baby sitters. This job comes with a level of personal responsibility,” he explained. “Just because the guy next to you isn’t wearing his mask doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. You need to think about your loved ones – wife, husband, children, boyfriend or girlfriend – before you take that mask off.”
Deputy Chief Bryan Frieders, of the Pasadena (CA) Fire Department and President of the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, called on attendees to take a stand against improper practices and unhealthy behaviors when they see it, from diesel exhaust capture systems that aren’t connected to using tobacco products.