Devastating Results Found: Firefighters and Mesothelioma

A new bill in New Hampshire was proposed this week after devastating results from a study performed last fall by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) were released. Although several asbestos lawsuits have been filed by firefighters over the past few decades, the studies confirm just how dangerous asbestos exposure is.

NIOSH, along with the National Fire Administration, published the study in the October 2013 edition of the Occupational and Environmental Medicine, which revealed that the impact of asbestos exposure on firefighters is severe. The initial goal of the study was to determine exactly what type of relationship, if any, existed between work exposure and cancer with firefighters. Not only did the study determine that exposure to agents such as formaldehyde caused cancer in firefighters, but also that the rate of mesothelioma among firefighters who have been exposed to asbestos is double the amount of the mesothelioma victims in the entire United States general population.

As a result, the new study may help firefighters in obtaining additional medical coverage costs. Under proposed House Bill 1489, Representative Laura Pantelakos, of New Hampshire, aims to start the Firefighters with Heart, Lung, and Cancer Disease Fund, which would be used solely to reimburse firefighters for costs associated with medical issues. If the new bill is passed, the fund would begin in July of 2014.

Some of the findings in the report that prompted the new bill, include:

  • The study was the first one ever to find such a high incidence of mesothelioma among United States firefighters
  • The study researched cancer deaths among firefighters from 1950 through 2,009, resulting in findings that show thousands upon thousand of workers were exposed to harmful, life-threatening materials
  • Firefighters are more likely than the general population to develop urinary, digestive, and respiratory cancer

Firefighters can be exposed to asbestos in several different ways. For example, when entering buildings that were ruined or damaged by fires, workers face asbestos exposure from pipes, furnaces, gaskets, shingles, and more.

In addition to facing asbestos risks while working, firefighters may also face exposure via their protective gear and clothing. Since asbestos is known for its heat and fire-resistant properties, helmets, jackets, gloves, and old fire equipment was made with asbestos. Although asbestos is hardly used in protective gear and equipment anymore, a multitude of firefighters have already developed mesothelioma, stemming from the time period in which asbestos was used abundantly. It’s estimated that more firefighters will develop mesothelioma even though it’s been over 20 years since they’ve worn clothing and gear that contained asbestos. Yet, mesothelioma is a silent disease that can take anywhere from 30 to 50 years for the first symptom to appear. The medical community recommends that all firefighters seek regular medical checkups since the disease has such a long dormancy period. Early detection is imperative for the best chances of successful treatment.

Keep in mind that if you or a loved one have been exposed to asbestos while on the job, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. You’ll need an experienced asbestos attorney to assist you and help you understand what you may be entitled to. For additional information and a free, no-obligation legal consultation, contact our leading asbestos lawyers today.

Sources:

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/firefighters/pdfs/OEM_FF_Ca_Study_10-2013.pdf

http://legiscan.com/NH/text/HB1489/2014

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