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Firefighters may be at increased risk of occupational disease

There are many noble professions. Firefighter is certainly amongst them. While this occupation is noble, it is also dangerous. These brave men and women put their lives on the line on a daily basis to help keep Iowans safe. Sadly, even if they are able to survive each individual fire unscathed, these firefighters’ exposure to airborne chemicals oftentimes causes them to develop occupational diseases such as cancer.

Tragically, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. In fact, nearly two-thirds of all firefighters who died in the line of duty did so after succumbing to cancer. And there are many retired firefighters battling cancer who are not accounted for in these statistics.

Why the increased risk in this particular profession? There may be a number of contributing factors. As mentioned above, airborne chemicals can coat protective gear and linger in a firefighter’s environment for a long time. This is especially true as building materials have changed over time to contain more toxin-possessing plastics.

Another contributing factor may be the long-held point of view that being covered in soot is an indication of a job well done. In fact, though, being covered in this soot could be a sign of over-exposure to these dangerous cancer-causing toxins. This is why many professionals recommend that firefighters keep their masks on even after the flames have died down, and that they shower and clean their gear immediately after finishing a call. This, it is hoped, will minimize exposure.

For many, though, it is too late. They have already developed an occupation-related disease that has threatened not only their health, but also their family’s financial well-being. These circumstances can leave families struggling to figure out how to move forward. Fortunately, in some situations it is possible to bring a workers’ compensation and/or Social Security disability claim in hopes of recovering the financial assistance needed to ensure that an individual can secure the medical treatment and financial stability he or she deserves.