Firefighters finding ways to lower cancer risk

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SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – As we start to see more and more fires during the winter season, firefighters are taking extra steps to keep themselves safe in the field.

They’re also taking steps to fight another battle.

Firefighters have a higher risk of getting a cancer diagnosis because of their job. Departments here in the Upstate are taking steps to make sure their men and women are living long and healthy lives.

Chief Marion Blackwell with the Spartanburg Fire Department says it isn’t just the flames firefighters are battling; it’s also what’s in the smoke.

“Today we have furniture that’s made microfiber. That’s basically petroleum products that they’ve turned into fibers to make your couches out of,” Chief Blackwell says.

When your furniture and house starts to burn, chemicals are released into the air, and those carcinogens are getting to firefighters.

The International Association of Firefighters says cancer caused 61% of career line of duty firefighter deaths from 2002 to 2016.

“That probably scares me worse than going to a fire,” says Blackwell.

Blackwell says the department has instituted several new protocols to make sure their men and women are lowering their risk.

Each firefighter is given two flash-hoods, so they can have clean gear to wear if they respond to multiple fires. After they’re done fighting the blaze, they can clean up on scene with wipes specifically designed to remove those harmful toxins.

“It’s not just one individual item, it’s a whole program that we have to put together to try to protect our firefighters from cancer,” Blackwell says.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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