Firefighting has always ranked high on the list of risky professions, but few civilians realize that one of the greatest risks that firefighters face comes years after retirement, in the form of malignant mesothelioma or other cancers caused by exposure to toxic substances. That reality came to the forefront last week as more than 100 Austin, Texas firefighters were potentially exposed to asbestos at a three-alarm fire in the city’s warehouse district.
Three-Alarm Fire Disturbed Asbestos, Put Austin Firefighters at Risk for Mesothelioma
Firefighters are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma than the general public, and this is a direct result of asbestos in buildings that were built decades ago. According to Bob Nicks, president of the Austin Firefighters Association, last week’s fire occurred at a warehouse in an area where most of the buildings were known to be built with the toxic substance, so firefighters were aware of the risk.
Speaking of firefighters’ risk of mesothelioma, Nicks said, “Our job is to go into dangerous environments. Most of the brick-and-mortar downtown on Sixth Street has asbestos in it, it’s around a lot, and it’s not to be worried about when it’s in that form — encapsulated. When it’s not airborne, it’s not a hazard to us.” But fire changes everything, and the exposure at the warehouse led to an immediate health-related response.
Mesothelioma Precautions Implemented Following Asbestos Exposure
Once the fire department became aware of the significant asbestos exposure that the firefighters had experienced, specific mesothelioma-related measures were taken. Firefighters kept their respirators on and all gear was decontaminated, and every member of the crew was sent for chest x-rays in order to establish a baseline for comparison should any of them develop health problems in the future.
If you or someone you love has been exposed to asbestos recently or in the distant past, you could be at risk for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. For information, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.