A study on over 4 decades of census data and cancer registries has revealed firefighters face a much greater risk for mesothelioma and other cancers than the general population. The researchers studied over 16,000 firefighters from five Scandinavian countries to examine the risks of on-the-job asbestos exposure. Asbestos was used in construction for many decades before being banned in Scandinavia and much of the world.
Exposure to asbestos-containing materials is the only known cause for mesothelioma and about 3,000 new cases are diagnosed annually in the United States. Results from the study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine found firefighters ages 30 to 49 suffered higher rates of prostate cancer and skin melanoma than the national population. For firefighters 70 years or older, researchers observed higher rates of non-melanoma skin cancer, multiple myeloma, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Cases of mesothelioma were a staggering 150% higher for firefighters 70 years or older than the normal rate for this cancer.
Firefighters can encounter asbestos dust on-the-job from burning buildings or demolished sites which may account for the study’s findings. Mesothelioma has a long lag period from the initial asbestos exposure to actually contracting the disease. This makes diagnosing mesothelioma more common in older age groups because the latency period for asbestos can reach 20 to 50 years. The researchers also note that the higher incidence rates for firefighters could be a result of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or their irregular work schedules.
This study confirms what smaller, previous studies have published regarding higher rates of diseases in firefighters. A study from last year of 30,000 U.S. firefighters reported that mesothelioma and 14 other diseases were more common for firefighters than the normal population. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that has painful effects on the victim and their family. Firefighters as well as rescue workers will continue to face the risk for asbestos exposure on their jobs especially in fire-damaged buildings where the asbestos particles become airborne. Workers should ensure they are equipped with appropriate safety gear whenever asbestos exposure is a possibility.
Occupational hazards for firefighters such as asbestos exposure are sometimes preventable and the result of negligence. Firefighters can be exposed to asbestos-contaminated sites and be left with life-threatening illnesses later in life. The mesothelioma attorneys at the Philadelphia law firm of Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler aggressively pursue compensation for mesothelioma victims. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, contact us online or call us at 800-369-0899 to explore your options for justice.