When you make your living as an Illinois firefighter, you face work-related hazards every day. Burns, mental stresses and similar issues are all common among workers in your industry. However, many firefighters also face risks stemming from their exposure to hazardous substances, including asbestos.
Per FireRescue1, asbestos is a known carcinogen. The more exposure you have to it, the higher the chances of you developing cancer, and, specifically, mesothelioma. A rare, aggressive form of cancer, mesothelioma affects about 3,000 new patients each year and has a poor prognosis in comparison to many other forms of cancer.
When you fight a fire in a building constructed before the 1980s, there is a good chance that asbestos is present in that building. At one point, you could find asbestos in any number of items within a home, including pipe insulation, tile adhesive and even certain small appliances. Asbestos use became far less common once the risks associated with it became well-known. Yet, many firefighters still face dangers when working in buildings where asbestos exists.
Limiting exposure risks
While you may not be able to avoid entering buildings where asbestos is present, there are steps you might take to help mitigate your risk level. Make sure to always wear protective gear when fighting fires. Make sure, too, to launder your gear promptly and thoroughly after each use. Avoid storing your gear in your car, bedroom or living areas, and make sure your firehouse has adequate ventilation.
If you develop mesothelioma following a firefighting career, exposure to asbestos fibers may be the cause.