The side effects from the risks firefighters are exposed to can emerge years later. For example, some of the long-term risks can be exposure to contaminants, which can be carcinogenic, and risks to heart health caused by repeated exposure to very high temperatures.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO), through its specialised cancer agency IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer), issued a new position on the firefighting profession and risk classification. Previously classified as Group 2B “possibly carcinogenic to humans”, the occupation has now been classified as the highest group, Group 1 “carcinogenic to humans”.
This classification means that there is now a medically proven link between the occupation of firefighter and the development of certain cancer diagnoses. Hopefully, this will have a positive impact on the regulatory, legislative, and preventive work related to occupational health and safety and disease for firefighters.
Firefighting is a dangerous job, and it will probably never be an entirely risk-free profession. Still, we must mitigate risks like repeated exposure to fire contaminants the best we can so that no firefighter is exposed to more risks than necessary.
Firefighters risk their lives and health every day to help protect us all. However, most firefighters we meet love their job, and we want them to be able to continue with it and still stay healthy.
Let’s face it, we all benefit from having healthy firefighters.