Today, 5/22/2018, on the Dr. Oz show, he discusses the topic of cancer being the number one killer of firemen now. News anchor Blair Miller of Boston 25 News explains why modern homes pose an increased health risk to firefighters. Then, firefighter Glenn Preston recounts the summer day when he found out he had cancer.
Why are today’s modern building materials contributing to this killer? In the last two decades, most home materials and furniture have been built with synthetic materials. The fires build and burn faster because of these materials and the smoke is more deadly.
Glen Preston [39 at the time] found out one summer day that he had a mass in his chest. He was diagnosed with blood cancer.
In 2002, Preston was among 200 firefighters who responded to a massive inferno at a power plant in Boston. Inside the building, he became separated from his crew as chemicals rained down from the roof, coating his protective turnout gear in a petroleum-jelly-like goo.
“That’s the most scared I’ve ever been in my life, I think.”
When he finally made it out, his jacket was covered in a slick slime, possibly containing PCBs. Of the 200 firefighters who responded, a quarter have since been diagnosed with cancer or cardiac ailments, according to the commissioner.
A recent body scan revealed that two years after being diagnosed, Preston is now cancer-free thanks to chemo and radiation. At the time of his diagnosis, Preston was a father of four children under the age of 10, was in the battle of his life. He is sharing his story so that his peers are protected from occupational exposure and the hardship that the Prestons have endured.
“I have to say, we have put him through some incredibly aggressive treatments that have certainly impacted his quality of life, but despite that, he has persevered,” Clinical Director of Lymphoma at Dana Farber, Dr. Eric Jacobson said.
Preston said that he is very grateful for all of the support he’s gotten throughout his battle.
“You hear a lot about the stuff the family is going through and the kids are going through, but the silver lining that isn’t really seen is exactly how much people have done,” he said.
Preston added that his favorite part about being cancer-free is getting to go home and tell his kids.
The International Association of Firefighters says cancer is now the leading cause of death among firefighters.
While thirty years ago, firefighters were most often diagnosed with asbestos-related cancers, today the cancers are more often leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma.
Researchers say one big reason for the change is that firefighters today are fighting very different blazes. Modern homes and businesses full of synthetics, plastics and chemicals that can explode much faster and coat firefighters in a toxic soot.
A CDC/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study tracked nearly 30,000 firefighters across the country in 2010 and found higher rates of cancer than the general population.
Congress is currently considering whether to approve the creation of a National Firefighter Cancer Registry — to get a firm handle on the number of deaths.
Boston Fire Commissioner Joe Finn and fellow members of NFPA’s Urban Fire Forum are also doing their part to amplify the issues of contamination and cancer. BFD may be a leader in furthering awareness and education on this topic, but they are certainly not alone in their advocacy. Departments across the nation and organizations like NVFC and the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance are also doing their part to inform others about occupational hazards and best practices.
Now, fire departments nationwide are ordering their men and women to take the danger from chemicals much more seriously. No longer is a firefighter’s soot-covered face a badge of honor. Departments are buying air tanks that provide oxygen for 45 minutes, rather than the standard 30 minutes.
Ref. Dr. Oz Show, Fire Rescue 1, chicagofire.com
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