Oregon Fire Service Office Administrators

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Firefighters at Risk for Mesothelioma

Thu, Jun 12, 2008

Each and every day, firefighters are exposed to various hazards, including unknown exposure to asbestos, which may lead to mesothelioma. Whether they are entering a building that is engulfed with flames, working to remove an injured driver from their vehicle, or climbing tall ladders to save someone from a compromised structure, there is no shortage of on-the-job hazards. Firefighters may not be aware of the presence of the less obvious but equally dangerous threat of exposure to asbestos and the potential for asbestos-related disease.

Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer that affects the pleural lining of the lungs. There is no known cure and the survival rate for mesothelioma is less than 1%.

In the U.S., over 35 million residences contain asbestos-containing materials, such as insulation, drywall compound, and floor tiles. Prior to 1980, when the use of asbestos for structural purposes was banned, the majority of homes and other buildings contained materials laden with at least 1% asbestos. When asbestos-containing materials are damaged from fire, the tiny fibers may become airborne, putting firefighters at risk for inhalation. The majority of firefighters are protected from inhaling toxins during the extinguishment of a fire because of their self-contained breathing apparatuses, or SCBAs. However, once the fire is contained and firefighters are moving through rubble and debris, they may no longer be wearing the necessary safety equipment, which leaves them at risk for asbestos exposure. Firefighters may also be at risk for exposure when they are in their firehouse, as many firehouses are situated in much older buildings that may be laden with materials, such as piping insulation or roofing, that contain dormant asbestos.

Mesothelioma is a deadly asbestos-related disease. There is no cure for pleural mesothelioma, but there are various mesothelioma treatment options available.

The Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center is the web’s leading resource for information related to asbestos exposure, mesothelioma, and treatment options. Please visit the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center for additional information.

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