Firefighters risk their lives every day to make sure that we stay safe, but they also risk long-term effects on their health.
“For a long time, we’ve been asking the public and our legislatures to recognize cancers in firefighting that are unique from other cancers people get,” said Bob Heldreth, the Vice President Wheeling Firefighters Local 12.
West Virginia legislature has passed laws regarding cancer presumption, and now President Trump recently signed Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown’s bill to establish a voluntary cancer registry for firefighters. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now required to create and maintain a database on cancer incidence among firefighters.
“Firefighters are getting cancer, different types of cancer than the general public and more often than the general public,” said Heldreth.
Melanoma, kidney cancer, and testicular cancer are the more predominant cancers found among firefighters. They are exposed to different carcinogens when they are putting out fires, but even being in their own fire station can be harmful due to diesel exhaustion fumes.
“We fire our trucks up in the station,” said Chief Larry Helms, the Wheeling Fire Chief. “They put out a lot of exhaust. We’re exposed to that, our clothing is exposed to it. The entire station is.”
Prevention methods have already been established over the last few years. Whether it’s having the proper equipment to cleaning off all toxins completely after a fire or having exhaust systems within the fire stations.
“With this national registry, we’re really moving in the right direction to keep our brothers and sisters safe,” Heldreth said.