A 2013 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) study identified firefighters in major cities, and found that firefighters are at greater risk for mesothelioma. Philadelphia is among these cities due to the high number of old houses containing asbestos. A recent symposium for firefighters in Munster, Indiana highlighted this study and offered practical suggestions.
Houses built in the decades prior to the 1970s have more asbestos than newer buildings. Cities like Philadelphia underwent massive housing growth between the 1940s and the 1970s and many builders used asbestos for siding, insulation, and flooring.
Fires are a major issue when buildings contain asbestos. Asbestos is fire-resistant and because of this, many manufacturers of building materials created composite products by blending asbestos with other flammable materials.
Yet burning is only part of the problem. In many cases involving house fires, firefighters must cut, saw, and drill through parts of the structure to control the flames. This allows asbestos fibers to become airborne and possibly trapped in firefighter clothing, gear, and tools. The asbestos can then be carried to the fire house where it can be inhaled long after respirators have been removed.
The symposium speakers told firefighters to use wipes to clean gear outside the fire house. They also emphasized the need to use respirators for any fire, even minor ones. Firefighters are known to address small grease fires and car fires without such safety equipment. This, the speakers warned, is a mistake.
U.S. Representative Pete Visclosky was among the speakers at the symposium. He discussed the passage of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2017 by the House of Representatives. The intent of the bill is to provide additional funds for firefighter safety and to create a registry of related cancer diagnoses nationwide.
The Philadelphia mesothelioma lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler have worked on asbestos-related illness claims in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for over thirty years. If you or a loved one suffers from mesothelioma, contact us online or call 800-369-0899 for a free initial consultation.