The risks of asbestos exposure have been known for quite a while now, and certain jobs have a high risk of exposure. Construction workers, industrial clean-up contractors, and others may regularly come into contact with asbestos. Firefighters can now be added to the list of jobs with a high-risk of asbestos exposure related to cancer risks later in life.

WHO Classifies Firefighters as High-Risk for Asbestos-Related Cancer

The WHO (World Health Organization) recently released a report that classified firefighters as professionals with a higher risk of developing asbestos-related cancer. The report stated that firefighters are 58% more likely than the general population to develop asbestos-related cancers later in life.

This is due to the fact that older buildings that still contain asbestos can catch fire and need an emergency response. The smoke produced by the fire can contain asbestos fibers from the building that can be inhaled by firefighters or cling to their equipment and be dispersed later.

Firefighters have known about the risks associated with general smoke inhalation for a long time, but the confirmation of asbestos exposure is important news.

What Asbestos Risk for Professionals Means

Being classified as ‘high-risk for developing asbestos-related cancers’ means just that. Asbestos-related cancers include:

  • Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer primarily associated with asbestos exposure. Around 3,000 people each year are diagnosed with mesothelioma. The outlook for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma is not positive, with the majority of people dying within a year of diagnosis.
  • Asbestosis. Asbestosis is a chronic condition that affects the lungs and respiratory system. An asbestosis diagnosis usually signifies a lifetime of treatments for scarred lungs and chronic inflammation.
  • Cancer. Asbestos has been linked to many different cancers including:
    • Lung
    • Larynx
    • Testicular
    • Ovarian cancer

The healthcare costs associated with these conditions can be prohibitively expensive, requiring many rigorous procedures. Prolonged exposure to asbestos is more likely to promote the risk of any of these asbestos-related cancers.

How to Prevent High-Risk Asbestos Fire Situations

There are steps property owners and building managers can take to protect everyone from potential asbestos exposure. This includes firefighters and personnel who work or live on a site.

Asbestos inspections are extremely important. Having your property or building inspected for harmful asbestos, especially in a duct system, can eliminate asbestos-related health hazards. Contracting a professional asbestos inspector or auditor is the only way to ensure you don’t have potentially dangerous asbestos on your property or in your building.

Many property owners may be concerned about the cost of an asbestos inspection. Be assured that any upfront costs associated with an inspection will more than offset the cost of future lawsuits, no matter the size of the property.

Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Resources

For more information on finding a local contractor to assist with asbestos information, remediation, or removal check the resources below:

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