Cancer seems to be a buzz word lately, especially in October and November when there are large campaigns to push awareness.
But what about Firefighter Occupational Cancer? In this life we know that people are getting diagnosed, some are able to beat it, some aren’t- and some spouses are left totally in the dark about it.
Just how much of that is caused by the job itself and the things that everyone is exposed to?
And is Cancer Really something caused by the job? Or a flame that is just stoked by the work conditions?
The Stats mentioned below are for the US- though I would love to connect with people in other countries to learn about prevention methods there!
Is it even a Problem?
It’s a big shitstorm of a problem.
As you read below, the reporting, the stats, and the treatment are lightyears behind where we need them to be.
It’s known to those that have been around long enough to see their brothers and sisters die from Cancer- this is a much bigger issue than we’ve ever been led to believe.
Just ask the widows. They’ll tell you about the consequences of something they didn’t’ even know was a risk.
Is Cancer Considered a LODD?
The straight forward hard punch is that occupational firefighter cancer IS considered a LODD.
The other straight forward punch is that it’s not always recognized by the state AND we have no federal registry to record FF cancer.
Let me clarify. In 2018 The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2018 passed.
So that means that the CDC will start collecting data in 2020.
emphasize on START.
They are likely doing this because of cries for help and some studies that point to higher risk factors for firefighters.
Namely a study that shows that Firefighters DO have a higher risk of cancer.
“The study included nearly 30,000 career firefighters from Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco who were employed at any time between 1950 and 2009. NIOSH researchers found that, when compared to the number of cancers expected using U.S. population rates, the firefighters in this study had a modest increase in cancer diagnoses (9% increase) and cancer-related deaths (14% increase).” source
But come on- if you’ve ever looked at studies (think those that have had to study for a bachelors and beyond) you’ll see that this study has flaws. Voluntary reporting (when firefighters weren’t even aware that cancer was an issue), huge gaps in time (60 years!!), departments that had paid members with up to date technology (no volunteers) and NO females studied whatsoever.
And the data shows that it wasn’t just any one cancer like lung or mesothelioma… it was a higher risk of leukemia.
How many firefighters with leukemia (or their children) ever thought that it could be related to the job in 2010- long before the internet with the resource and connections that we have today?
We know through anecdotal evidence and cries for help on social media that Firefighters are dying from cancer- but these laws and data collection take time. Time that our current firefighters (and our brothers and sisters that have died from occupational cancer) don’t have.
So the CDC will start collecting in 2020 and we won’t even know the preliminary data for years, let alone LAWS that will reflect that.
That’s why members of our community are taking Cancer prevention in our own hands. Like over at FireMom, where they’ve made custom PPE bundles for cancer prevention
If it’s such a risk, why don’t all Firefighters get Cancer?
This is a lovely question that I’d love to back up with some data.
First, let’s take a look at our cancer reporting system.
wait… I just mentioned above that it’s a pretty sad reporting system that isn’t really official and it has lots of flaws.
The truth is that we don’t know HOW many Firefighters have died from occupational cancer.
Based on current stats (that are somewhat behind the ball as all stats are based on several years ago) we know that there’s a 9% higher increased risk that Firefighters get Cancer.
And we even have a new app funded by FEMA that helps you determine your lifetime exposure.
We do know that people are connecting the dots. Like Lillian over at Carney Strong who lost her husband to Firefighter Cancer and it didn’t even get recognized by her state. Talk about insult to injury.
Now she’s made a commitment to pass out decontamination supplies and education in her late husband’s honor- it’s time that we listened to stories of those who have lost their firefighters to prevent the risks to the ones we love.
But her story isn’t alone- we are hearing more and more about firefighters with cancer (especially females who haven’t had proper studies done).
The truth is that Cancer is a very real (and VERY MISUNDERSTOOD) part of the career- not only for those that have worked in the field for the last 20 years, but also those that are just starting out.
From Volunteer to Wildland to Military and all forms of support in between, Occupational Cancer, from the strains of the job on health and immune system to the carcinogen exposure, is a TRUE threat to the health and well being of Firefighters.
That’s why we are all about prevention- and making sure that spouses are aware of the risks and how we can minimize this threat together.