Asbestos-related diseases among firefighters is something that a New Hamshire lawmaker noted a report on cancer issues that was quietly published at the same time as tort reformers were pushing the FACT Act on Capitol Hill.
Mesothelioma and its devastating impact was revealed by the joint report from the National Fire Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
The National Fire Administration/NIOSH study was published in the October 2013 issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Its aim is to identify the relationship between occupational exposure and cancer among firefighters.
Asbestos.com reported that the study examined mortality patterns and cancer incidence among career firefighters and is among the largest of its kind. Researchers looked at a pool of nearly 30,000 firefighters employed in San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia between 1950 and 2009.
Firefighters’ work exposes them to known and suspected carcinogens like formaldehyde and benzene. The study shows that such exposure is linked to an increased risk of developing certain cancers. The findings were consistent with previous studies which found that firefighters experience higher rates of respiratory, digestive and urinary cancers, compared to the general population.
In addition to strengthening evidence from earlier studies, researchers also made a previously unreported finding. They found the rate of mesothelioma among firefighters involved in the study was twice that of the general U.S. population. Since asbestos is “the only known causal agent of mesothelioma” and firefighters are often exposed to asbestos in the debris of older buildings, the research suggests an association between firefighters’ occupational exposure and increased mesothelioma rates.
Further studies are planned and will look closer at employment histories and use of respiratory protection and ventilation.