First, the good news: Cancer awareness within the fire fighting community is at an all time high thanks to organizations like the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and independent cancer researchers. The bad news? Well the bar was set pretty low and we still have a long journey ahead of us.
The correlation between cancer and firefighters was not really a matter of concern just a handful of years ago but thanks to growing research we now understand just how much cancer is impacting the lives of firefighters and the fire fighting community.
As firefighters we understand the risks we take each and every day, it is why we do what we do. We assume those risks don’t follow us into retirement or when we leave the station after our shift. The truth is the biggest risk we take never really leaves us, no matter if we’re at work or at home with our family years later. That risk is the prolonged exposure to cancer causing toxins.
What if I told you that you could reduce your risk of cancer with just the simple act of cleaning?
Many of us working in the fire service are fortunate to have some of the best bunker gear available to protect us while on the job. Our stations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure we have the proper equipment and gear to do our job safely but as I mentioned before, the risk doesn’t end there it only starts there.
Each time we are exposed to a major incident our turnout gear becomes contaminated with harmful soot, grime and grit. These harmful chemicals continue to live on our gear and every minute that gear goes unwashed is another minute those chemicals have to infiltrate our lungs and skin.
Conducting routine gear cleaning after a major incident can greatly reduce the long term risk we impose as firefighters. In fact, research has proven this to the point that there are now regulations requiring advanced cleanings of gear up to two times per year and routine cleanings after each incident. For more information about the specific regulations and guidelines visit www.nfpa.org.
There are a lot of risks we take as firefighters and many things we can’t control while on the job. Mitigating the risk of cancer through proper cleaning of contaminated turnout gear is something we as a community have full control over and have no excuse to ignore. Increasing cancer awareness within the fire fighting community isn’t just about making sure people know the risks, it is about educating people on what they can do to make sure the next generation of firefighters don’t suffer the same consequences of those before them.
Today, departments have many gear cleaning options ranging from in-house gear extractors to using an independent service provider (ISP) to conduct routine cleanings. At RedLine, our mission is to help firefighters understand the best way to maintain their turnout gear and equipment.If you’d like to learn how we are working with fire departments around the country to provide on-site turnout gear cleaning and equipment decontamination click here.