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Firefighter cancer rate often cited as 67 percent higher

Those who dedicate their lives to saving the lives and property of others often pay a high price. While firefighters are hailed as heroes in their local communities, there are hidden hazards they face that are not openly discussed. Sadly, work-related cancer has likely affected more than a few Missouri firefighters.

According to studies, the cancer rate among firefighters varies between an estimated 36 to 67 percent. This figure may be more surprising as those who are selected as paid firefighters are among the healthiest individuals who undergo stringent physical fitness assessments before they are hired. This guarantees that those who are selected are considered physically fit enough to handle the rigors of the job. While many may believe that the gear these professionals wear provides adequate protection, in reality, it still allows air flow to the skin, thereby permitting exposure to the pollutants that are released in the high temperatures that accompany fires.

The compositions of many modern structures contain more plastics than before. When these materials are heated, they give off toxic fumes that can be absorbed into the lungs and skin of those who are exposed. In addition, even exposure to the diesel fumes emitted by fire engines increases the risk of exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. There are efforts underway to increase protective measures, but many stations are challenged by lack of adequate funding. Furthermore, volunteer firefighters face strict requirements in order to be covered by their state’s workers’ compensation program.

Sadly, even those who qualify for coverage by this vital insurance program face obstacles in getting a valid claim approved. Several states will only provide for a few types of cancer, even though the worker may have been exposed to cancer-causing chemicals through his or her occupation. Missouri workers who have been diagnosed with a serious work-related illness are entitled to seek the assistance of an attorney in order to ensure that their claim will be processed in a timely manner.