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Tillman & Associates, Attorneys at Law

Cancer rates among firefighters higher than national average

We all know that being a firefighter is one of the most dangerous lines of work there is. We often associate that danger with the fact that they place themselves in potentially-lethal situations like burning buildings or are fighting a wildfire on a mountainside or in a forest.

However, they also have an increased chance of developing cancer because of the smoke and toxic by-products that are released from materials like plastics when they are heated. These can be inhaled or seep in through the skin. Of course, plastics are everywhere today.

According to one public health expert, cancer causes 60 percent of firefighter deaths as opposed to just under a quarter of deaths among the population as a whole. Certain types of cancer are more likely to be linked to firefighting than others. These include prostate cancer, bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, testicular cancer and breast cancer (both in women and men).

Volunteer firefighters may be at an even greater risk of harm than their professional colleagues. They often don't have the same safety gear. In fact, in some cases, they have to fight fires in their street clothes. In some cases, volunteer firefighters aren't provided health insurance through their jobs as professional firefighters are. This puts them at even greater risk of a cancer or other health issue going undiagnosed for too long.

Of course, many of our readers have heard about the high rates of cancer, respiratory illnesses and other health problems that have and continue to plague the firefighters and other first responders who worked in and around ground zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As of September 2014, over 850 firefighters as well as fire officer had been diagnosed with illnesses related to 9/11. Over 340 New York firefighters died that day.

Proving a link between certain illnesses like cancer and firefighting can be challenging. However, Georgia workers' compensation attorneys can work to do that so that people who become ill while working to protect all of us and the things we love can afford to get the medical care they need. Proving these links can also help make this dangerous work a little less lethal for the men and women who take it on, whether professionally or on a volunteer basis.

Source: Emergency Management, "Firefighters More Likely to Develop Cancer Than Public at Large, Experts Say in Calling for Volunteers' Insurance," Delthia Ricks, Newsday, accessed Oct. 29, 2015

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