Research Studies

Externa dok5

Report “Minimising firefighters’ exposure to toxic fire effluents”

Professor Anna Stec et al. (2020) presented an independent report from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), commissioned by the FBU.

“A growing body of evidence suggests that firefighters have an increased risk of developing cancer and other diseases compared to the general population. This increased risk may be linked to firefighters’ occupational exposure to toxic fire effluents (LeMasters et al., 2006)…"
"As the best practice report it aims to help protect firefighters’ health by highlighting some of the risks and common sources and suggesting preventative measures for minimising exposure to contaminants and best practice for the decontamination of FRS personnel and firefighting equipment after exposure to toxic fire effluent. It provides background information, statistics, resources and actions vital for improving firefighters’ health and well-being, keeping them safe and preventing the contamination which otherwise will lead to serious health conditions resulting in either life-changing problems and/or premature death..."

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Externa dok7

Study about the skin’s exposure to PAH

Fent et al. (2013) carried out a study to determine if airborne PAHs could contaminate and pass through the skin of fire fighters.

Highlights of the evaluation:
The Health Hazard Evaluation Program carried out a study at a fire service training facility to determine if airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other aromatic hydrocarbons generated during live fire training contaminate and pass through the skin of fire fighters.

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Externa dok1

LeMasters’ Meta-analysis:

LeMaster et al. (2006) at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, USA, conducted the largest study to date as they weighed data from 32 other studies. In total, firefighters analysed were over 110,000, and the study identified 10 different types of cancer where firefighters had a clearly increased risk of being diagnosed.


  • Testicular cancer - 102% higher risk
  • Multiple myeloma - 53% higher risk
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma - 51% higher risk
  • Skin cancer - 39% higher risk
  • Brain cancer - 32% higher risk
  • Malignant melanoma - 32% higher risk
  • Rectal cancer - 29% higher risk
  • Prostate cancer - 28% higher risk
  • Stomach cancer - 22% higher risk
  • Colon cancer - 21% higher risk
    (Higher risk = higher risk compared to average population)

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Externa dok2

NIOSH study:

Daniels et al. (2013) at the National Institute for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in Cincinnati, USA, investigated the link between cancer and firefighters. The study included 30,000 firefighters from San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia, and the results showed that firefighters have a 14% higher risk of dying from cancer and a significantly higher risk of developing seven different types of cancer compared to the average population.


  • Mesothelioma - 100% higher risk
  • Rectal cancer - 45% higher risk
  • Oral / pharyngeal cancer 40% higher risk
  • Esophageal cancer - 39% higher risk
  • Colon cancer - 31% higher risk
  • Kidney cancer - 29% higher risk
  • Lung cancer - 10% higher risk
    (Higher risk = higher risk compared to average population)

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Externa dok3

The Nordic study

Pukkala et al. (2014) at various universities and institutes in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland published a study of 16,000 Nordic firefighters. Among other things, this study divided the risk of cancer per age group and the study shows a statistically significant increased risk for all age groups to develop five different types of cancer.


  • Mesothelioma - 155% higher risk
  • Non-melanoma skin cancer - 33% higher risk
  • Lung cancer (lung adenocarcinoma) - 29% higher risk
  • Malignant melanoma - 25% higher risk
  • Prostate cancer - 13% higher risk
  • Prostate cancer (for firefighters aged from 30 to 49 years) - 159% higher risk

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Study 2018 occupational exposure 350

Occupational exposure to PAH

The Study "Occupational Exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Elevated Cancer Incidence in Firefighters".

Anna Stec et al. published 2018 the first UK study identifying firefighters’ exposure to PAH carcinogens. They studied 140 firefighters, and collected 650 samples from the skin, clothing, fire engines and also sampled surfaces from within their offices.

Cancer incidence appears to be higher amongst firefighters compared to the general population. Given that many cancers have an environmental component, their occupational exposure to products of carbon combustion such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) is of concern. This is the first UK study identifying firefighters exposure to PAH carcinogens. Wipe samples were collected from skin (jaw, neck, hands), personal protective equipment of firefighters, and work environment (offices, fire stations and engines) in two UK Fire and Rescue Service Stations. Levels of 16 US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) PAHs were quantified together with more potent carcinogens: 7,12-dimethylbenzo[a] anthracene, and 3-methylcholanthrene (3-MCA) (12 months post-initial testing). Cancer slope factors, used to estimate cancer risk, indicate a markedly elevated risk. PAH carcinogens including benzo[a] pyrene (B[a]P), 3-MCA, and 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene PAHs were determined on body surfaces (e.g., hands, throat), on PPE including helmets and clothing, and on work surfaces. The main exposure route would appear to be via skin absorption. These results suggest an urgent need to monitor exposures to firefighters in their occupational setting and conduct long-term follow-up regarding their health status.

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