Firefighters are subjected to asbestos exposure on the job. They often fight fires in buildings that have asbestos components; in fact, this is nearly unavoidable, since millions of homes, office buildings, schools, libraries, and workplaces across the United States contain asbestos in hundreds of forms. Fires that occur in buildings that were erected before 1980 may create a toxic level of asbestos in the immediate area.

Asbestos in Building Components

Firefighters incur asbestos cancer when a structure is burning, smoking, or collapsing. The asbestos that is common in:

  • attic insulation (e.g., vermiculite/Zonolite)
  • drywall
  • plumbing and electrical insulation
  • floor and ceiling tiles
  • roof shingles
  • joint compound
  • many other products

— can come apart in a fire, releasing its microscopic-sized fibers into the air, where firefighters may inhale them. If the asbestos components were old and/or in poor condition before the fire, it is even more likely that the asbestos fibers will be disturbed and become airborne.

When Asbestos Is Inhaled Mesothelioma Cancer Risks are High

The airborne asbestos fibers can lodge themselves in the lungs and other internal organs, where they may begin a disease process that culminates in asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma cancer. Each of these conditions is more common among firefighters compared to the general population.

After the Fire Has Gone Out, Too

Even after a fire has been controlled and extinguished, toxic levels of asbestos dust may still be present. A firefighter can use a SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) to filter out asbestos, but asbestos dust can also settle on fire trucks, other equipment, and the firefighters themselves, and this must be cleaned up too.

Other people in the vicinity of a fire, such as emergency response personnel (EMTs, police), passersby, and the residents of a burned home should also be aware that they may be at risk of toxic asbestos cancer even after a fire has gone out. Asbestos fibers can remain suspended in the air for hours — even days.

Asbestos Firefighting Clothing

Ironically, asbestos was used years ago as part of many firefighters’ protective clothing, since asbestos has such excellent fire-retardant properties. Unfortunately, the very clothing that the firefighters were wearing was giving toxic levels of asbestos exposure to the unsuspecting firefighters.

Learn More about Firefighters and Asbestos Cancer

Contact mesothelioma treatment centers today for more information about firefighters, asbestos exposure, and asbestos cancer illnesses.

Firefighters and Asbestos Cancer (english) / Cancer de Bomberos y Asbesto (spanish)