Township using decontamination kits for firefighters on scene to fight cancer risk

Township using decontamination kits for firefighters on scene to fight cancer risk (WKRC)

COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WKRC) - The team in Colerain Township was taking a proactive approach they said after a study still ongoing by the National Institute of Safety and Health, or NIOSH as it's known, found when fires burn it's a health hazard to firefighters, in a big way.

People know the danger as fire destroys a burning building. Now people are learning more about the danger that it also brings to those who put those fires out.

Asst. Fire Chief for Colerain Fire and EMS, Allen Walls, said, “If you look at statistics there's an increased risk of one and a half to two and a half times that of the normal population as far as specific or different types of cancer.”

So to combat that Assistant Fire Chief Walls joined the ranks of just a few in the country to try and double protect his firefighters and paramedics against it.

Justin Boyce, a firefighter and paramedic for Coleraine Township, said, “After every fire we try to wash our gear.”

For years firefighters such as Boyce have gone through a decontamination process when they return to the station. Now, rather than waiting, they will first have the chance to do much of that same thing while on scene.

As a structure burns their equipment doesn't just get covered in smoke and potentially cancer causing compounds, it also heats up.

“So as we are inside our gear working if you can imagine a five-degree increase in temperature we have a 400 percent absorption or increased ability for absorption,” said Boyce.

Now decontamination kits will go with them and items for immediate use to remove cancer causing agents on scene. The idea behind it is that no matter how much protective gear firefighters wear on their hands or even head, if it’s covered in something that would actually absorb into the skin or that people might breath in that would give them cancer they are still at risk. That risk needs to be removed as much as possible.

Now that people know the dual danger there's a responsibility to protect against it. The real danger is that they have repeated exposure to smoke and other cancer causing agents. The cancers for which they appear to be most at risk due to this were brain, digestive tract, lung cancers, and others. The goal with the effort is to lower those odds.

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