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Firefighting may lead to cancer

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“Firefighting involves many risks, including burns, hypoxia or oxygen deprivation and falls due to burning structures. This are but few of the risks involved but recent studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) have shown that this type of work is 'possibly carcinogenic to humans'.”

“The WHO – IARC commissioned 24 doctors to conduct the study and the results which was released last December 2007 showed that firefighters have increased risks in acquiring testicular and prostate cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma due to short term exposure to carcinogens like benzene, benzo[a]pyrene, 1,3 butadiene and formaldehyde,” said Noel Colina, Executive Director of the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) as the Philippines mark the month of March as Fire Prevention Month.

“When struggling with fires, cancer is the last thing to come into the minds of our firefighters but this does not eliminate the hazard. If firefighters from developed countries face this kind of occupational hazard, what more for firefighters from developing countries like the Philippines, who have far less equipment to protect themselves, like breathing apparatus to prevent inhalation of toxic fumes. Fire-prevention awareness must come hand-in-hand with increase awareness about occupational cancer,” clarified Colina.

Colina suggested that the Bureau of Fire Protection provide more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and increase medical surveillance for both regular and volunteer firefighters.