Long-Term Health Hazards for Firefighters: How to Stay Safe

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Firefighting is a hazardous occupation where professionals constantly put their lives at risk. If you are a Firefighter, you will probably know the uncertainty of the next moment. Every day brings a new challenge, and you may find yourself facing death in the middle of a raging inferno. But the career is rewarding as nothing is more heroic than saving lives.

Beyond the risks you face on your firefighting missions, you also have to deal with long-term health hazards. As 1.2 million firefighters in the US risk their lives every day, they often overlook these hazards until they face the harsh reality. Prolonged exposure to heat and smoke can make you sick. Additionally, the stress of your job can affect you in more than one way.

According to the 2021 statistics, there were 70 firefighting fatalities on duty in the US. The numbers may be gross if you scratch the surface and count the deaths caused by prolonged illnesses. The US Fire Administration’s data suggests that overexertion, stress, medical issues, and road accidents are other leading causes of firefighter deaths in the country.

Fortunately, many of the prolonged health risks are avoidable if firefighters are conscious and cautious. Here are a few insights to deal with long-term health hazards effectively.

Know the Potential Threats

A 2022 report shared by the International Agency for Research on Cancer highlights occupational exposure during firefighting as a group 1 carcinogen, which means there is sufficient evidence that it causes cancer. Firefighters are exposed to several carcinogens in the line of duty. These include asbestos, benzene, formaldehyde, per- and poly-fluoroalkyl chemicals, and polychlorinated biphenyls.

Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) is one of the major culprits, as prolonged exposure can lead to cancer and other health risks. American law recognizes the hazard and opens the opportunity for firefighting professionals to seek compensation for their pain and suffering. A firefighter who sustains damage can file an AFFF firefighting foam lawsuit against AFFF manufacturers.

TruLaw notes that AFFF lawsuit settlement amounts can range from $10,000 to $300,000, depending on factors such as the level of exposure, the medical problems suffered, and the strength of the claim. Victims should definitely file a claim to get the compensation they deserve and put their life back on track.

Ensure Safety With Personal Protective Equipment

Knowing that you can claim compensation for fatal diseases caused by long-term exposure gives you peace of mind. But you can do your bit to minimize exposure in the line of duty. Fortunately, using personal protective equipment designed to protect wearers from serious injuries or illnesses resulting from fire and CBRNE hazards can make all the difference.

It includes fire fighting suits, gloves, turnout gear, gas masks, and respirators. According to the latest report, wearable devices woven into PPEs can reduce the rate of injuries and mortality in firefighters. Wearing proper personal protective equipment every time you go on a mission is non-negotiable. Also, ensure your safety clothing is properly sized and fitted. Ill-fitted gear can expose you to high heat levels, increasing the risk of burns and contributing to heart disease.

Stay Physically Fit

Research shows that cardiovascular disease is a serious concern for firefighters as it accounts for 45% of all duty-related fatalities. Factors like constant stress while dealing with high-intensity situations elevate the risk. Long working hours and environmental exposure are other factors contributing to the threat.

High levels of physical fitness can lower the risk and protect your heart. Moreover, it helps you in the line of duty by ensuring agility and flexibility. Maintain a healthy weight, focus on mental well-being, and invest in an actionable self-care routine to stay on top of your health goals.

Consult Your Doctor Regularly

Proactive and preventive health checks can be lifesavers for everyone, even more for people working in high-risk environments such as firefighting situations. Since cancer, heart disease, and respiratory issues are common in the industry, overlooking the risks can be the worst mistake. Conversely, early detection and treatment of long-term health hazards can save your life.

Be regular with your medical appointments to get thorough health checks. Your doctor can guide you regarding the red flags and detect symptoms of illnesses early. Tackling symptoms of medical conditions early can keep them from worsening.

The Bottom Line

Long-term health problems are a part of the package for Firefighters. While some health risks are unavoidable, others can be handled and prevented with the necessary steps. Awareness can help you limit the risks, and proactive measures like wearing hazmat equipment, focusing on self-care, and staying on top of preventive checks.


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