Firefighters fight higher chance of cancer alongside flames

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — January is Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month.

Officials with the Illinois Fire Service Institute in Champaign said cancer is a huge problem among firefighters. They said firefighters are 9% more likely to get cancer and 14% more likely to die from it than the general population.

IFSI Deputy Director Jim Keiken said chemicals given off by burning homes and other materials contribute to the likelihood of firefighters getting cancer. That is why they do what they can to make sure those chemicals get washed away as soon as possible.

“A bucket, a hose, Dawn dish soap and decontaminating firefighters. IFSI research has found that we can remove 85 percent of the decontaminates by doing an initial gross decon of the firefighters when they’re done fighting the fire,” said Keiken. “And then we make sure those firefighters get back to the station and shower within the hour. We wash more of those products off of their skin, thereby further reducing their risk or their chance of absorbing those products of combustion.”

Keiken said the gear firefighters wear is designed to protect them from the heat of the fire and not the chemicals that come with it. That is why it is important to wash those off after they have put out the flames.

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