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10 Health Risks to Firefighters

According to a Forbes article, firefighting is one of the happiest jobs. 80% of firefighters state that they are very satisfied with their jobs. That is mostly because they get to help people.

Firefighters risk their lives daily to save the lives of others, and that takes a lot of courage. Apart from the immediate risks of fire fighting, there are health risks to fighters that many of us tend to ignore.

These individuals do an amazing job trying to keep the community safe, but sometimes forget to worry about their wellbeing. Firefighters face health risks, some of which, if not addressed on time prove fatal. These health risks to firefighters occur because of their constant exposure to carbon monoxide and other dangerous hazards.

10 Health Risks to Fire Fighters

Firefighters arrive first on the scene of an accident. They have an innate calling and role to save lives and protect anyone in an accident at whatever cost. However, they continue to face various health risks.

Here are 10 health risks to firefighters you should know about.

1. Mental Health Issues

The dangerous nature of their job can cause them to face serious PTSD. Mental health awareness is therefore very important for people in this line of work. While many are used to the strenuous and life-threatening incidences they face, one particular fire or accident can cause a major impact on a fighter’s mental health.

Firefighters face a lot of pressure that comes with the job because of its demanding nature. With stress, your body is prone to many illnesses because your mental health directly links to your physical health.

Apart from the demanding nature of the job, firefighters tend to experience intergroup conflicts or high role conflicts. These affect their mental health. A long period of experiencing stress leads to depression, which is dangerous.

Depression has adverse effects, which include suicide. Stress can also lead to habits that are dangerous to a firefighter like taking higher risks during a job.

2. Heart Disease

A huge number of firefighters die each year due to heart attacks and the numbers are worrying. An alarming 45% of deaths among firefighters is due to a heart attack. The risk of suffering a heart attack increases when fighting a fire.

The main cause of a heart attack would be the intense work close to hot flames, constant exposure to the dangerous carbon monoxide, and due to other strains related to the job. If you are a firefighter and you engage in the smoking habit, you stand a higher risk of suffering from this health problem.

Others who are at high risk of suffering from a heart attack are overweight firefighters, who lack physical fitness.

3. Chronic Respiratory Disease

Chronic respiratory disease is one of the most challenging types of lung illness. It can affect even the most experienced firefighter. When fighting fires, firefighters are exposed to many respiratory risks, which can cause major problems to the lungs.

Even in a situation where a fire does not contain toxic substances, it can still affect a firefighter’s health. Inhaling smoke and dust can worsen existing lung problems as well as cause new issues like lung inflammation.

Most fire stations have respirators, but sometimes they are impractical especially when dealing with wildfires. 30 minutes supply of oxygen through the respirators cannot be enough. Some of these fires take much longer than that to combat.

4. Hip Osteoarthritis

This health condition is not uncommon among firefighters because of the high exposure to intense physical work. Many firefighters risk hospitalization due to osteoarthritis of the hip and the risk continues to grow by the day, because of the intense nature of the job.
Whether it’s running up flights of stairs or carrying heavy equipment up to the scene of the fire, or even carrying victim down to the emergency vehicles, firefighters are constantly on the move and short of time.

However, studies are still being conducted to find out if this condition is common to many fighters globally.

5. Hearing Loss

Although nowadays firefighters use equipment that does not emit too much noise, the exposure to too much sound during the early career phase of firefighting can cause hearing loss among some firefighters.

Some fire stations, which still use the hazardous equipment, put the people working in these stations, at risk of losing their hearing either partially or permanently.

Additionally, firefighting equipment is not the only cause of hearing problems. Fire scenes are often too noisy and that alone is a risk to your ears.

6. Cancer

Cancer is the biggest reason many firefighters lose their lives in the USA alone. Firefighters have a higher risk of getting cancer more than any other group of people in society.

They stand a 14% higher chance of dying from the disease in comparison to the public. These firefighter cancer statistics courtesy of Source One MRO, are extremely concerning.

Cancer among firefighters might be because of continuous exposure to chemicals and toxins and other contaminants. Contaminants can enter a person’s body when using contaminated equipment or when you are working in a contaminated environment.

This sounds like the daily life of a firefighter, don’t you think? That is why cancer is growing common among firefighters and leading to many deaths.

7. Hepatitis B and C

Since firefighters are among the first people on a scene, there is the risk of a firefighter interacting with victim’s blood first hand. When a firefighter encounters the blood of someone with hepatitis B or C, chances are that the firefighter will be affected.

8. Physical Injuries

As a firefighter, you risk injuring yourself when combating fires and that can happen through burns or when a collapsing structure falls on you. An injured firefighter is unable to work, and in return, goes through some level of stress, which affects mental health. Injury depression is a major concern among people who lead an activity-filled life.

Do you now understand how your mental health is directly linked to your physical health?

9. Persistent Coughing

Due to continuous exposure to intense smoke, firefighters risk developing persistent coughing. A persistent cough is not only uncomfortable but also makes one unable to work effectively.

10. Asthma

Asthma cannot stop a firefighter from working, but a firefighter who ends up acquiring asthma during service can have a hard time adjusting to the condition. Too much smoke inhalation is what can cause asthma in firefighters.

There Are High Health Risks to Firefighters Despite Their Heroic Acts

The job of a firefighter is one that comes to many as a calling to help people in need. The first responders arrive first on the site of an accident and offer emergency treatment, save lives, and property alike. However, the health risks to firefighters are at an alarmingly high rate.

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