Cancer in the Fire Service

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How familiar is this scenario:

You go to shift and respond to a structure fire. You do your job…whether it’s on the nozzle, truck work, or overhaul. It’s a worker so you’re there awhile until the job is done. You go through 2-3 bottles. You are sweaty, dirty, and most likely wet. Back to the station and you probably shower, maybe not if it is the middle of the night and you are really tired. You come home from shift the next morning and your wife says “honey, you reek like smoke.” You both shrug it off as nothing out of the norm. You wake up the next morning and your pillow smells like smoke. Over the next day or two you get a workout in or do something physical that makes you sweat, and what do you still smell coming out of your pores?…..the smell of a structure fire.

This is bad news.

That smell? Products of combustion that have made their way into your body. How bad are those things in the smoke? Toxic. Is this avoidable? Not really. There is a portion of this nasty stuff that is going to make it’s way into our bodies no matter how diligent we are at masking up. No matter how good our PPE and decontamination procedures are. No matter what kind of diesel exhaust filtration systems are in place.

Here is why this is bad news.

“Studies show that Firefighters face an increased risk in developing the following types of cancers” (Taking Action Against Cancer in the Fire Service)

  • Testicular cancer                                   2.02x greater risk
  • Multiple Myeloma                                1.53x greater risk
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma                1.51x greater risk
  • Skin cancer                                             1.39x greater risk
  • Brain cancer                                           1.31x greater risk
  • Prostate cancer                                      1.28x greater risk
  • Stomach cancer                                     1.22x greater risk
  • Colon cancer                                          1.21x greater risk
  • Breast cancer (women)                        Preliminary studies show high increased risk

These and other alarming statistics are starting to become topics of discussion on the local, national, and international level. Multiple studies worldwide are echoing the statistics regarding the association between firefighting and disease, specifically cancers.

  • United States – LeMasters (2006) and NIOSH (2013)
  • Australia – Australian Firefighters’ Health Study (2014)
  • Korean – Cancer Morbidity of Professional Emergency Responders in Korea (2012)
  • Nordic – Cancer incidence among firefighters: 45 years of follow-up in five Nordic countries (2014)

Read the summaries of these studies. This is very real and this is very scary. One of the benefits of this career is that after many years of service you are afforded the opportunity to retire at a fairly young age, hopefully with a body that is still functionally intact. I am speaking from a structural viewpoint here: chronic overuse injuries resulting from the demands of a physical job. THAT is what is currently on the minds of men and women looking at retirement. Can I make it to retirement in good enough physical condition to enjoy it?

It’s time to start paying attention to what these studies are saying. It’s not the back, knees, shoulders, etc…we are being diagnosed with cancers and other diseases that, in the best case scenario, are compromising the quality of life during retirement. Decreased quality of life, increased medical expenses…BEST case scenario. More often though, we are not dealing with best case scenarios. We are dealing with retirements cut way too short. And it is just not retirees. We are having cancer  Line Of Duty Deaths (LODDs). In 2014, 56% of LODDs among IAFF members were from occupational cancer. (IAFF Webinar on Cancer Awareness)

Unacceptable. At least not without a fight.

This is where Prehab Nutrition is starting. The Fight on the inside. The Fire Service is attempting to address protecting us on the outside, and they are making great progress in that area. But there is nothing being done about protecting us on the inside. Nobody is talking about the inevitability of the toxic products getting into our bodies. What do we do when they are in there? How can we start aiding our bodies in getting that nasty stuff out? How can we mitigate the effects of them once they are inside us?

Prehab went on a mission to start looking at how to supplement our bodies to assist in these processes. And we are relentless in this mission. Enter our first product:  DAILY DECON. We formulated it to do two things:

  1. Help reduce the damage caused once a toxic chemical has entered the body
  2. Support the body’s ability to remove that toxin

By the way…do you know our mission here at Prehab Nutrition? It is simple. But we take it very seriously:

“Our mission is to promote longevity and quality of life so Firefighters and other First Responders can continue to enjoy their lives and families long after their last alarm.”

 

Next up: “Common Toxic Exposures Found on the Job”

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