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Fire Department to incorporate best practices for preventing firefighter cancer

Posted Oct. 22, 2019

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Cancer is increasingly recognized as one of the most dangerous threats to firefighters. Studies have shown that firefighters are at increased risk for many types of cancer compared with the general population.

The toxins and carcinogens firefighters are exposed to on the scene and through residual effects of firefighting are better understood now than ever before. At least a dozen cancer types can be linked to the fire service.

“Firefighters are contracting cancer at an alarming rate, and we need to take action to protect our first responders,” said Fire Chief Jim Davis. “Fortunately, there are specific things we can do to lessen our risks and prevent exposure.”

In the Fort Worth Fire Department (FWFD) alone, $700,000 in health care claims for employees with a cancer diagnosis were made in 2019. Thirty-two firefighters are either in cancer treatment or in remission, according to department statistics.

FWFD plans to partner with community leaders and use scientifically-proven methods for education, prevention, detection and survivorship. The department will launch a comprehensive health and wellness program that involves a full-spectrum approach to behavioral, cardiac and cancer care.

The department and its partners have proposed a $1.2 million cancer reduction budget for fiscal year 2020 that would focus on protecting firefighters from exposure to potential cancer-causing elements by purchasing appropriate fire gear and gear-cleaning equipment.

“We owe it to each firefighter, to their families and to the community to take every step necessary to keep our firefighters healthy and to ensure they come home safely,” Davis said. “Together we can greatly reduce firefighter occupational cancer.”

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