FBU launches life-saving research to test firefighters for health issues

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A new research project commissioned by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has begun and provide life-saving firefighter cancer and health monitoring with the first samples carried out in Tyne and Wear. The research is being undertaken by the University of Central Lancashire, led by world experts in fire chemistry and toxicology.  

Firefighters in the UK are currently volunteering to provide blood and urine samples to be analysed, with the first samples taken last week. The results from these tests will be used to determine the number of firefighters with occupational cancers and other diseases resulting from exposure to toxic contaminants in fire.  

Increased risks

The new research follows the recent discovery that instances of cancer among firefighters aged 35-39 is up to 323% higher than in the general population in the same age category. This research revealed that firefighters are significantly more likely to die from cancer, heart attacks, stroke, and several other diseases. The new study is the first of its kind to take place for firefighters in the UK.

Riccardo la Torre, FBU National Officer said he was proud of Tyne and Wear members taking part in the study: “Tyne and Wear is setting a positive example for how fire services can assist in making real steps forwards to save firefighters lives from occupational cancer and diseases.

“Health monitoring must be rolled out across the UK, as a vital part of serious measures to make firefighting a safer profession. No one should face illness, or worse, from going to work. We can and must be the generation to make the profession safer.” 

Anna Stec, professor in fire chemistry and toxicity at the University of Central Lancashire, commented: “This is the first study of its kind in UK and the research brings to light the wide range of occupational hazards that firefighters face. 

“It is vital that firefighters can continue to do their jobs as safely as possible, and the research shows that measures such as health monitoring and reducing exposure from contaminants at the workplace will play an important part in protecting firefighters.

“We hope that working with organisations like TWFRS will not only help us to create a safer working environment in Tyne and Wear, but will also introduce a change to the wider sector.” 

Wayne Anderson, FBU Secretary for Tyne and Wear said the study was a vital step for the fire and rescue sector: “The evidence shows that firefighters’ health is at risk because of exposure to toxic contaminants in fire. We need to continually challenge and improve our preventative and protective measures for all firefighters, to save lives from cancer and other diseases.”

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