At Ready Rack, we believe that great firefighter cancer prevention starts with awareness, proper decontamination techniques, and exposure-reducing turnout gear maintenance. Just going to work can expose firefighters to cancer-causing substances, aka carcinogens. Knowing this, how can you decrease your exposure and contamination at the station?
Cancer In Firefighters
According to NIOSH (the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety), firefighters have a 14% higher chance of getting cancer than the general public. The Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN), states that cancer causes around 70 percent of the line-of-duty deaths for career firefighters.
From greatest to least risk, firefighters have between a 1 and 2 times risk of developing the following types of cancers:
- Testicular Cancer
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Skin Cancer
- Malignant Melanoma
- Brain Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Colon Cancer
PPE – Your First Line Of Protection On The Front Lines
Properly maintained and worn PPE and SCBA equipment help to block your immediate exposure to carcinogens. Unfortunately, some cancer-causing materials can still manage to seep through exposed areas of your skin like the areas around your hood, the interface between your pants and boots, and the area between your jacket and pants.
Risks After The Call Is Over
Once the fire is out and you’ve escaped the source of toxic gases and soot, your chemical exposure risk isn’t over. Carcinogens stick to your bunker gear, get on your skin, and into your lungs during PPE removal. Everything your contaminated firefighting gear touches, apparatus crew areas, trunks, break rooms, rugs, etc. can be exposed in an accidental phenomenon known as Bunker Gear Toxin Transfer.
Tips For Firefighter Cancer Prevention
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take and specialized equipment you can use to protect yourself as much as possible from firefighter cancer. Here are some tips for during and after a fire.
Cancer Prevention At The Scene
- Wear PPE even after the fire is out.
- Wear PPE even at small fires like car fires and trash fires.
- Wear PPE during overhaul.
- Provide natural ventilation to burned structures before beginning investigations.
- Provide breathing protection to fire investigators.
- Decontaminate your gear and SCBA while still on SCBA air.
- Wash exposed head, neck, face, and hands with soap and water or wet wipes.
Cancer Prevention After The Fire
- Store exposed turnout gear in an outside compartment if possible.
- Store contaminated PPE in an airtight container or garbage bag if stored inside the apparatus.
- Clean PPE, according to NFPA 1851 and the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Maintain and test SCBA daily to make sure it continues to function correctly.
- Only wash PPE at the station, not at home or a public laundromat.
- Clean your PPE before cleaning yourself.
- Store your contaminated as well as your clean PPE correctly and avoid cross-contamination.
- After your bunker gear is safely stored, take a thorough shower, then change into clean clothes.
Additional Tips To Stay Healthy
As first responders, firefighters need to be stronger and healthier than the average citizen. In addition to following safe cancer prevention practices on the fire ground and after returning to the station, firefighters should consider:
- Eating a healthy diet low in sugar and processed foods and high in lean protein, fruits, and vegetables.
- Asking your doctor if you need more frequent cancer screenings.
- Avoiding tobacco and alcohol consumption.
Let Ready Rack Help Reduce Your Risk
At Ready Rack, we offer and manufacture many products that help reduce firefighter cancer risk. We have bunker gear cleaning solutions, wipes for individual firefighter use, as well as safe and effective general station cleaners. We can also provide you with highly specialized turnout gear washers, PPE dryers, and customizable storage solutions.
- Turnout Gear Washing Machines
- SC-14 All-purpose Station Cleaner/Degreaser
- CitroSqueeze PPE & Turnout Gear Cleaner
- Responder Wipes – For Quick On-Scene Decon
- Fire Hose Cleaning & Drying Machines
Let’s Prevent Firefighter Cancer Together
Firefighter safety and well-being are critical both on and off the fire ground. Contact Ready Rack for more details on our turnout gear cleaning and storage solutions. Trying to increase firefighter cancer prevention? Let us help you and your crew keep dangerous carcinogens at bay.