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Study: Firefighters at Heightened Risk of Mesothelioma

Firefighting is a dangerous job. Each year, many firefighters are seriously injured or killed. Major causes of injuries include smoke inhalation, structural collapse and burns. However, according to a recent news article in the Orlando Sentinel, firefighters are at much higher risk for many different types of cancer (pancreatic cancer is extremely prevalent) and studies have determined they are two times more likely to die of malignant mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure than those who have never worked as firefighters.

firefighter-711365-m.jpgThere are a variety of reasons firefighters are more likely to develop malignant mesothelioma than non-firefighters. First, it should be noted, the results in the study were compared to a control group of non-firefighters, and the data stood up to this comparison.

As our Boston asbestos exposure attorneys can explain, asbestos was heavily used in the construction industry. It was used as insulation material in walls, attics and roofing. Asbestos was also used in drywall components and drywall joint compounds, most commonly in the form of a product known as gun plastic cement. Asbestos was also found in flooring materials, such as linoleum tiles and linoleum sheet material. It was used in carpet fibers and basically every other aspect of home and commercial construction.

When workers were installing asbestos products, they were constantly being exposed to the deadly fibers and did not know it. They would inhale the fibers into their lungs and then carried the dust on their clothing home to the families where their loved ones could eventually become gravely ill. It is important to keep in mind, while the workers and their families had no idea they were being poisoned, asbestos industry insiders were long aware of the toxic effects of asbestos and took tremendous steps to keep this information from the general public. Some companies even marketed asbestos-containing products as safe alternatives to asbestos, once members of the public started to become aware to the hazards of asbestos. This complete disregard for people’s safety is the reason for such verdicts in asbestos litigation today.

Once the asbestos material was securely installed in a home or other building, it was generally safe for residents and other occupants. It is only when the materials are disturbed that they present a major risk of harming occupants. This can occur during renovation, as it can during demolition. When proper asbestos abatement (removal) is performed, workers must cover the dust with water to prevent dust from entering the air, where it can be inhaled.

When a firefighter goes into a burning building, the fire is tearing apart the structure and asbestos dust is billowing into the air with smoke and fire. This is putting firefighters in frequent contact with deadly asbestos fibers and contributes to a higher rate of them developing mesothelioma.

In addition to exposure from burning structures, for many years prior the 1970s, and even after that, asbestos was used to construct fire retardant blankets and other fire suppression systems. It was common practice to take a fire blanket out of a red canister hanging on the wall like a fire extinguisher and throw it on the fire. Since it was essentially fireproof, it would smother the fire and deprive it of oxygen without catching on fire itself. Former firefighters and older veterans were often exposed to this form of asbestos.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Orange firefighter’s pancreatic-cancer diagnosis leads to calls for change, May 5, 2015, Orlando Sentinel

More Blog Entries:
Mesothelioma Lawsuits for Shipyard Workers, July 30, 2014, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog