Fire fighters do not have the option of picking and choosing the calls they respond to, whether here in Iowa or elsewhere. When they receive a call, they go and heroically put their lives in jeopardy to save others. They can see many of the risks they face but not all of them. Some fire fighters end up suffering from occupational diseases from exposure to chemicals and substances they cannot see.
It may be possible to limit the exposure. Fire fighters wear protective gear, including respiratory gear to keep them safe as they rush into burning buildings. However, what happens to their gear after the fact could make the biggest difference. Dust, fibers and other debris can settle on their turnout gear. If not properly cleaned after a fire, those particles can end up being inhaled or otherwise ingested.
Before even leaving a scene, all protective gear should be washed with soap and water. It should also undergo a professional cleaning periodically. The gear should not be stored in the apparatus cab or the trunk of a vehicle, along with the living area of the station. Transporting and storing the gear should be in a contained space when the gear must be in confined spaces. In addition, it may be easier to keep turnout gear on, but it should only be worn when needed and certainly not in public places.
Reducing the exposure to substances that can lead to occupational diseases is the first step in keeping fire fighters safe. However, even when precautions are taken, the potential does not entirely disappear. Iowa fire fighters who end up suffering from conditions related to their work may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits to help with a portion of income, medical and medical-related expenses, and possibly more, depending on the circumstances.