Volunteer Recognition Day 2015: To the Volunteer Firefighters Who Risked Their Lives When They Were Exposed to Mesothelioma-Causing Asbestos Fibers

April 20, 2015

This Volunteer Recognition Day 2015, we thought we’d say thank you to the volunteer firefighters who risk their lives to save individuals and property from fire. Volunteer firefighters give up their holidays and free time, even waking up to the call in the middle of the night, not for money, not for benefits, but to help protect their cities and towns and help out their neighbors.

Who would have thought, though, that while volunteer firefighters do all they can to help protect individuals from harm, they may be putting themselves at increased risk of health complications down the line? We’re not talking about the risks that come in that heart-pumping moment of rushing into a burning building and battling the flames; no, we’re talking about what could come next… serious health complications like exposure to mesothelioma-causing asbestos fibers that may cause cancer years down the line.

We don’t thank volunteer firefighters enough for all of the work they do — but the conversation about volunteer firefighters and their dangerous exposure to asbestos, the sacrifice they make, risking their life despite the risk of developing mesothelioma cancer, that, that we don’t talk about at all. Maybe it’s because nobody knows.

If you or someone you know is a firefighter or volunteer firefighter, we encourage you to share this blog with the other members of your team. Hopefully, with better awareness, we may be able to give you all the better protection from harm you deserve.

Asbestos is a dangerous carcinogen — meaning it is a toxin  that is known to cause cancer. The cancer that asbestos exposure may cause is called mesothelioma, it’s a very rare form of cancer that has limited treatment options and no complete  cure.

Unfortunately, firefighters and volunteer firefighters may be exposed to asbestos, and the risk of mesothelioma, when they are working to extinguish a fire. Many buildings built before the 1980s have asbestos inside of them — and it’s when these old buildings with asbestos are being messed with, either via demolition, renovation or unintentional fires, that individuals become at the most risk of exposure to asbestos.

The highest risk comes with the initial stage of extinguishing a fire, where the asbestos fibers may be released into the air. This is why firefighters are taught to use a self-contained breathing apparatus called a SCBA from before they first run into the burning building to even after the fire has been extinguished — by avoiding breathing the air nearby older buildings, even after the flames have been extinguished, firefighters are most protected from asbestos exposure.

However, there’s still a risk even after the firefighter has left building entirely. Because it’s at this point where fighters may either rid their body of any potential lingering asbestos fibers on their clothes, or unknowingly bring the asbestos fibers home to their family to potentially expose them to the mesothelioma-causing carcinogen, too.

That’s why firefighters are told to remove their outerwear and any other clothing or equipment like gloves and shoes, all items that may contain asbestos fibers. These items are to be contained, cleaned and decontaminated. And firefighters who may have been exposed to asbestos should also wash themselves up, too, before they come back home to their families.

Unfortunately — while there’s a lot of shoulds that come with firefighting and volunteer firefighting, that doesn’t mean that firefighters are always protected in carrying out these precautions.

If you weren’t advised to do one of the above — or if you were left to fend for yourself in decontaminating your outer clothing for yourself, or were not advised or assisted with getting a sufficient SCBA, you may have legal options down the line should you or a family member develop mesothelioma.

To learn what your legal options may be, you may contact a mesothelioma lawyer at (866) 538-0485 or contact us online at any time for a free and confidential consult.

And if you’re a volunteer firefighter, thank you — for all the neighbors, all the cities, all the towns and buildings that you protect.