Reducing Cancer in the FD

Technical BulletinLast updated Thursday, July 19, 2012
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Cancer among firefighters had become a hot topic within the fire service. Although improvements had been made to reduce toxin exposure, the problem was that in recent years there had been an increase in cancer diagnoses of Chesapeake firefighters, either active or retired, in spite of the attempts made to reduce the risk of illness and disease. The purpose of this research was to review the cancer prevention approach of Chesapeake Fire and determine what improvements could be implemented. This was a descriptive research project which involved an analysis of a national survey conducted through current and past Executive Fire Officer students, interviews and e-mails from fire departments, as well as interviews, journal articles and electronic sources.The research questions were: (a) What preventative measures are other departments employing to reduce firefighter cancers? (b) What are some of the shortcomings of Chesapeake in respect to its cancer prevention strategies in the fire service? and (c) What are some of the obstacles that could hinder making appropriate improvements? The results of the research showed a true concern for cancer among firefighters, with some departments not experiencing an increase in cancer rates. Those that did show an increase were involved in initiatives to improve conditions that included smoke extraction systems in apparatus bays, as well as implementing policies that addressed turnout cleaning and personal hygiene, health screenings and physicals, to name a few.Recommendations included (a) exploring feasibility of issuing a second set of turnout gear, (b) exploring ability to retrofit fire stations with source capture systems, (c) implement a no-smoking policy among incumbent firefighters, (d) devise a stricter SCBA policy, and (e) address the importance of personal hygiene after exposures

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