Firefighters the Risks

Firefighters the Risks – Asbestos Exposure

Firefighters face uniquely extreme asbestos exposure risks, and as a result, they suffer an elevated rate of asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.

When people imagine the dangers of firefighting, they often don’t realize cancer is now the No. 1 occupational cause of death for career firefighters.

Most 20th-century buildings, contain asbestos materials were ubiquitous is used in public buildings and residential building.

Most manufacturers phased out the use of the toxic mineral when its link to terrible illnesses, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma, were publicly revealed, but asbestos still remains in millions of old buildings across the nation.

Firefighter Facts:

  • Face extreme risks of asbestos exposure during rescue operations
  • likely to develop mesothelioma due to exposure
  • a high percentage of line-of-duty deaths are caused by cancer in general
  • Proper training and procedures can prevent occupational cancer

When buildings burn, weakened asbestos-containing materials can release intense concentrations of toxic mineral fibers into the air. Firefighters must use their safety equipment at all times at the site of a fire and then decontaminate their gear properly.

They risk exposing themselves and their families to asbestos and other toxic substances found in ashes and debris.

Many organizations provide training and informative resources so firefighters can learn how to prevent occupational cancer. Other organizations specialize in supporting firefighters stricken with cancer.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study of firefighters“We observed about an increase in malignant mesothelioma mortality and incidence compared with the population.”

Asbestos Diseases in Firefighting

When asbestos is disturbed(burning), it releases dust fibers more than 100 times thinner than a human hair.

These microscopic mineral fibers cannot be seen, smelled or tasted. Because they do not chemically react with anything in the body, they cause no immediate symptoms when someone inhales or swallows them.

However, because asbestos fibers never dissolve inside the body, they can become permanently lodged in lungs, organs and tissues, causing benign and malignant illnesses to develop many years later.

Read some of the results and related conditions.


When asbestos collects in the soft tissue of the lungs, scar tissue may build as the immune system tries to expel the fibers. The buildup of scar tissue gradually stiffens the lungs, making it harder to breathe as the asbestosis progresses.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is usually caused by smoking tobacco products, but each year, many thousands of cases also trace back to asbestos exposure. Asbestos-related lung cancer kills more people than any other asbestos-related illness.

Pleural Plaques and Thickening in Firefighters

Once inside the body, asbestos fibers can also migrate into the pleura, which is the tissue lining around the lungs. Irritation from lodged asbestos fibers may lead to development of hard plaques or scarring in the two layers of the pleural lining, which can make breathing painful.


Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Most cases affect the lungs and their lining, endangering the lungs, heart and chest wall, but a large fraction of cases develop in the peritoneal lining of the abdomen, potentially spreading into the organs of the gut.

Information taken from on the 30th of October, 2018.