Should firefighters worry about asbestos exposure?

On Behalf of | Jun 26, 2023 | lung cancer

Firefighters put their safety and health on the line to protect those in danger during an emergency. They are often exposed to hazardous materials during their work, including asbestos. 

The use of asbestos is mostly banned in the U.S., but it can still be found in older buildings. 

Asbestos was used to prevent fires

Asbestos was commonly used in insulation, floor tiles, roofing, and other construction materials. One of the main reasons contractors used asbestos is that it has excellent fire-resistant properties. Asbestos can withstand high temperatures without catching fire, which made it an ideal material for insulation and fireproofing. However, despite its benefits, asbestos was later found to pose serious health risks to those exposed. 

Firefighters are at risk of asbestos exposure when fighting fires in older buildings that contain asbestos-containing materials. When these materials are burned or damaged, asbestos fibers are released into the air and can be inhaled by firefighters. Additionally, firefighters may come into contact with asbestos fibers when removing debris after a fire.

To protect against asbestos exposure, firefighters should take the following steps:

  • Firefighters always need to wear protective gear, including respirators, when fighting fires in older buildings or entering buildings after a fire.
  • After fighting a fire in a building that contains asbestos-containing materials, firefighters should follow proper decontamination procedures, including showering and washing their gear.
  • Firefighters should avoid disturbing materials that may contain asbestos and report any suspected asbestos-containing materials to their supervisor.

Several serious health problems can arise from asbestos exposure, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. These diseases can take years to develop and may not show symptoms until decades later. The risk of developing these diseases increases with the amount and duration of asbestos exposure.

Because they have such a high risk of exposure, firefighters should receive regular medical checkups to monitor their lung health and identify any symptoms of asbestos-related diseases early.