Articles, Publications, etc. "Firefighters and Cancer"

Webinar 20230201 350

Webinar “Firefighters and Cancer”

Date: February 1st, 2023.
1 hour free webinar with following speakers:

  • Alex Forrest. Retired Captain, Winnipeg Fire Department. President, Manitoba Professional Firefighters. International Association of Firefighters Canadian Trustee
  • Anna Stec. MSc, PhD, CSci, CChem, FRSC, FIFireE, FHEA Professor in Fire Chemistry and Toxicity, Centre for Fire and Hazards Sciences, School of Natural Sciences, University of Central Lancashire
  • Dan Cartwright. Deputy Assistant Commissioner. National Fire Chiefs Council. National Deputy CBRN(e) Strategic Lead

Youtube (1 hour webinar)
Anna Stec’s presentation (as a not editable pdf): Read or Download

Lancet 2023 01 19 350

Article in The Lancet Jan. 19, 2023

Article “Firefighters at increased risk of cancer diagnosis”, about research commissioned by the UK Fire Brigades Union which is currently underway at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan, Preston, UK) into the impact of firefighting on firefighters’ health as a result of their involvement in the emergency response to the Grenfell Tower disaster in London, in June, 2017.

Some quotes:

  • “…create dangerous levels of carcinogens, and our modern firefighting gear cannot fully protect us from this danger.” says Alex Forrest, International Association of Fire Fighters.
  • “We demand to see more action on prevention, health monitoring, and facilities and contracts for proper personal protective equipment…” says Riccardo la Torre, National Officer of the Fire Brigades Union.

Read or Download

Extra info about the Grenfell Tower disaster:
Read article in The Mirror, UK

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Decision from IARC

In July 2022, WHO's cancer agency (IARC) classified occupational exposure as a firefighter as carcinogenic to humans according to their highest degree of certainty (Group 1).

Some quotes:

  • "Occupational exposure as a firefighter causes cancer...cancer in humans for the following cancer types: mesothelioma and bladder cancer."
  • " to a complex mixture of combustion products from fires (e.g. polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons..."
  • "Dermal exposure, inhalation, and ingestion are common routes of exposure, and biomarker studies among firefighters have found enhanced levels of markers of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons..."

Read or Download
Extra info about the decision:
Read or Download article in The Lancet
Read or Download Infographic
Read or Download Q&As

Externa dok8

Healthy Firefighters - the Skelleftea Model

Magnusson and Hultman (2014) started the project Healthy Firefighters – the Skellefteå model. The basic idea was to improve the work environment for firefighters.

Some quotes:

  • “Common substances...which have been established as carcinogenic, include:..polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)...Some of these substances are easily absorbed through the skin. (p. 17)”
  • “In this context, there are three primary ways in which airborne harmful substances can make their way into our bodies…via skin absorption” (p. 20)
  • “There are many situations in which firefighters’ skin comes into contact with harmful substances… The substance penetrates warm and sweaty skin quicker than dry or cool skin”...“Many medicines are designed to be absorbed by the skin, e.g., analgesic creams, heart disease medication and nicotine patches…"
  • Harmful molecules can make their way into the firefighter’s body when they come into contact with the skin…

Read or Download

Externa dok6

Article in Canadian Occupational Safety and in EHS Today

Article, referring to a study by Keir et al. (2020), which was published Oct. 18, 2020 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Some quotes:

  • "Our study shows that the best way to reduce a firefighter's exposure to harmful combustion products is to reduce chemical exposure to the skin," said Jules Blais, professor of environmental toxicology at the University of Ottawa and research team leader" (s. 2)
  • "The team found a significant link between PAH metabolites found in urine and levels of PAHs on skin, suggesting that firefighters are exposed to these harmful chemicals mainly through contact with their skin, rather than by inhalation." (s. 2-3)

Canadian Occ. Safety: Read or Download
EHS Today: Read or Download


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Up to triple risk of cancer

Article about studies pursued by Anna Stec, Professor of Fire Chemistry and Toxicity at the University of Central Lancashire. Among other tings, the studies show that cancer deaths among firefighters under the age of 75 are up to three times higher than for other citizens in the community.

Read online