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Contaminants and the risk to firefighters

15 October 2019

THE FBU’S research project collaboration with the University of Central Lancashire (UClan), formed the focus of a segment on Inside Out on BBC One on 30 September.

A number of serving and retired firefighters who are living with cancer were interviewed about their experiences and the FBU's innovative research, being carried out to better understand the exposure of firefighter to carcinogenic substances, was highlighted. 

The UCLan research project is entirely funded by the FBU’s lottery scheme. The three year project will seek to reduce the potential health risks from fire effluent contamination and to establish try if there is evidence of a link between firefighting and cancer.

Firefighters know there are long term health risks associated with inhaling smoke and gases from fire, but there is less information, or real evidence, on the risks associated with absorption of those carcinogenic substances through the skin.

The findings from the project will help researchers understand the health implications of exposure to carcinogenic substances and inform best practice for washing and storing PPE to reduce potential health risks. The FBU is part of a committee looking at a new standard on cleaning, maintaining, storage and transportation of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which is expected to be published later this year.

Speaking on the BBC One programme, Chris Davies, health and safety lead for the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), acknowledged that firefighters are contracting certain types of cancer above the population norm but didn’t go as far as saying there is a link between the job and cancers which the FBU is hoping to establish.

Commenting on the coverage, Sean Starbuck, national officer said, “we are pleased that our  ground-breaking research is getting the recognition it deserves. The health and safety of our members is absolutely paramount, and we are hopeful that this project will go a long way to improving the way we view contaminants in the fire and rescue service. It is worth adding that without the Firefighters 100 Lottery, this work would not have commenced, so thank you to everyone who plays.”

To sign up to the Firefighters 100 Lottery, please visit www.firefighters100lottery.co.uk