FACTS FOR FIREFIGHTERS
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Studies show that firefighters have a significantly increased risk of cancers and other serious illnesses compared to the general population due to their exposure from hazardous chemicals found in smoke, soot and even from their own gear. In fact, on June 30, 2022, the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Association for Research on Cancer (IARC) has officially declared firefighting as a cancer-causing profession by moving it from a 'Group 2B - Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans' to a 'Group 1 - Carcinogenic to Humans'. See the Monographs HERE.
The toxins to which firefighters are exposed include:
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- Heavy metals
- Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and
- Other organic toxins such as benzene
These not only have been proven to cause cancer, but a host of other diseases and DNA mutations.
And it's not just the soot you can see - 97% of the particulates that you are exposed to as a firefighter cannot be seen. That soot you can see represents only 3% of the danger to your body.
The University of Ottawa study quantifying firefighter exposure (2018) showed firefighters had 3-5X more metabolites (byproducts of PAHs) in their urine after a fire on average, with 4 times increase of the potential for DNA mutations. Some had PAH concentrations up to 60x higher after a fire.
As a rule of thumb, if it's on your gear, it's on your skin and can be absorbed. And the more your skin's temperature increases, the more easily those toxins are absorbed into your bloodstream - the rate of dermal absorption increases 400% for every 5-degree increase in body temperature.
The term 'Toxic Handoff' means that contamination can occur through surface exposure - you expose others as these toxins are transferred from you, your clothing, your equipment, your vehicle ... all the way to your home.
This also translates to your gear - even after it's been washed, testing has shown gear can remain contaminated.
Source: Exposure Studies: Initial origins of PAHs and point source contamination leading to firefighter exposure, Jeramy Baum, Department of Chemistry, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Miami
From 2015 to 2020, 75% of the names added to the IAFF Fallen Firefighter Memorial Wall died from occupational cancer. 75%. A small few of these will be recognized as official line-of-duty deaths.
Using wipes on scene is a great way for initial, quick personal decon. Wipe effectiveness varies, but are shown they can remove as much as 54% of contaminates from the wiped area.
Your standards should also include washing immediately and thoroughly after an incident for maximum risk reduction.
But if you're showering and still smelling "that smell" (you know the one) even after washing, that is an indication of significantly increased levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in your body.
That smoky smell = a 46% increase in PAHs
A 2021 study (Hoppe-Jones C, et al. Evaluation of fireground exposures using urinary PAH metabolites. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2021) found that skin smelling like smoke after having showered after a fire was associated with a 46% increase in urinary PAH metabolites compared to firefighters responding to a fire and their skin not smelling like smoke.
This means that if you're smelling that smoky smell even after showering, that is significantly associated with a dramatic increase in cancer-causing, DNA-mutating toxins in your body.
It also takes an incredibly short period of time for carcinogenic PAHs to become detectable in blood after exposure, so washing should occur as soon as possible post-exposure - whether on scene or after handling equipment at the station. Showering as quickly as possible (within the hour) has been proven to remove more toxins, but a more efficacious approach includes washing your hands, and any body part you touch directly after exposure. This means having an effective contaminate-removing soap on scene for washing, as well as in the stations for washing after handling contaminated equipment, and showering products for both skin and hair.
Up your decon game with soap and shampoo designed specifically for firefighter decon. If you are still smelling that smoky stench after washing or showering, your soap isn't cutting it.
SOOTSOAP was designed for firefighter decontamination to remove organic toxins, impurities and chemicals and was lab and field tested with firefighters over the course of 2 years. Our Detoxifying & Deodorizing Hand & Body Soap for your skin and Shampoo for the hair on your head and body get rid of THAT smell in ONE WASH, guaranteed. Imagine what else it’s getting rid of.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't. Standards may not have caught up to the risk yet, but the facts tell us - science tells us - that the solution is prevention and that immediate washing and showering is an effective way of reducing your risk of exposure. Until the Standards catch up, we need to set our own. We know better, and we can do better.
FACT. You can reduce the risk of toxic exposure by setting your own standards for personal decon
SOOTSOAP was lab-developed specifically for firefighter decon, and it works. Our detoxifying & deodorizing Shampoo and Hand & Body Soap are available in a variety of sizes ranging from 5ml up to a bulk format for station use and dispenser refills (1.89L / 64 fl oz).
Reach out to us at email@example.com for more information, research, connections to Departments who stock SOOTSOAP, testimonials, or SDS.
“SOOTSOAP should be in every shower, in every station.”
Register at F.A.C.E. Team Resources (floridafirefightersafety.org) for extensive resources, programs and access to grants.
If you would like to support firefighter prevention, or help firefighters and their families affected by cancer, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or our friends at FCSN.