The issue of firefighter cancer has been widely covered in recent years, and rightly so. One department in particular, Boston Fire (BFD), has proactively and creatively advocated for firefighter health and wellness, as well as public education about firefighter exposure. Their powerful videos chronicling firefighter deaths from cancer within their department and promoting firefighter cancer prevention strategies have received tens-of-thousands of views and fostered meaningful conversation across the nation.
BFD has once again found a way to explore and expound to the masses about the toxins that firefighters encounter as part of their occupation. Working with the Center for Community Based Research in the Division of Population Sciences at Dana-Farber and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, BFD and Boston Firefighters’ Union Local 718 are assessing the impact that daily routines have on firefighter health. In particular, scientists are looking at how firefighters are affected by diesel exhaust fumes that permeate the fire station. Researchers are taking into account Boston’s historic building design, as well as a new firehouse in neighboring Arlington that will serve as a control site for the study. The project will also look at firefighter behaviors including 24-hour shifts, sleeping patterns and eating habits.
NFPA and Technical Committees responsible for vetting occupational exposure codes are aware of the hazards that lurk in firehouses, apparatus and PPE; and are considering chronic, low risk contamination during the standards process. Additionally, the Fire Protection Research Foundation is currently working with F.I.E.R.O. and other partners on a Campaign for Fire Service Contamination Control project that is focused on the entire spectrum of contamination control for all firefighter activities, including before, during and after a fire or hazardous event. The one-year research effort is being funded through an AFG Fire Prevention & Safety Grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency; and will be completed in September of this year.