South Shields firefighter talks about health battle as brigade supports research into possible links between job and cancer
Fears have been raised that cancer amongst firefighters is above the normal average – and a South Tyneside fireman is backing the claim.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service has said they ‘share concerns’ of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC).
It comes as research shared with BBC Inside Out shows that firefighters in the UK are twice as likely to die from cancer as the general population.
The BBC Inside Out in the North East and Cumbria programme that will be shown on Monday, September 30, says firefighters are being exposed to harmful toxins on their clothes and equipment which contain carcinogens.
And now Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service has confirmed its support of the NFCC’s ongoing research into providing conclusive evidence to show whether or not there is a direct link between the contaminants firefighters are exposed to and cancer.
Professor Anna Stec, Fire Chemistry and Toxicity Expert at the University of Central Lancashire, is looking at the harmful toxins that firefighters are exposed to.
She said: “In my opinion, there is a direct link between a firefighter’s occupation and cancer.
“Firefighters are twice as likely to die when compared to the general population, and they’re dying from not one type of cancer, but they’ve got multiple types.”
Chris Moore is a current firefighter in South Shields and has Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
He is adamant he got cancer because of his job, saying: “I’ll give you an example – fire gloves get covered in dirt and muck and smoke and soot and toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, and we store them in our helmets.
“So when we go out to the next incident you take your gloves out of your helmet and you stick the helmet on your head.
“I’ve done that for 25 years.
“It’s no surprise that I’ve now got a cancer of my blood system.
“I firmly believe it’s been caused by my job.”
There are toxins and carcinogens in all fires, from a family BBQ at home to a blazing wall of fire in a house.
Scientists believe there are 16 major compounds in carcinogens where the toxic concentration may lead to cancer. It’s all about the level of exposure.
The UK’s Chief Fire Officer, Chris Davies, is the lead for Health and Safety at the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) acknowledged that firefighters are contracting certain types of cancer above the population norm and accepted that is a concern.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said it the safety of firefighters is their top priority and it will continue to review its processes for wearing and decontaminating personal protective equipment.
A spokesperson for the service said: “Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service is committed to the health and wellbeing of our professional and dedicated firefighters.
“We share the concerns of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) that certain types of cancers amongst firefighters is above the normal average.
“We fully support the NFCC’s ongoing research into providing conclusive evidence to show whether or not there is a direct link between the contaminants firefighters are exposed to and cancer.
“The safety of our firefighters is our top priority and we continually strive to improve this.
“We will continue to review our processes for wearing and decontaminating personal protective equipment in line with NFCC guidance.”
BBC Inside Out in the North East and Cumbria will air on Monday, September 30, at 7.30pm on BBC One.