Everybody knows firefighters have a dangerous job, but few understand the biggest risk they face while saving lives. In an eye-opening article, the Atlantic reports the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths for US firefighters is cancer. According to the International Association of Fire Fighters, 60% of firefighters will die from the disease. “The longer you’re a firefighter, the greater your chance of getting some kind of cancer,” environmental health expert Susan Shaw tells the Atlantic. The article cites multiple studies showing firefighters have an increased risk of everything from non-Hodgkin lymphoma and colon cancer to prostate and testicular cancers. One study found firefighters' risk of lung cancer increases with every fire.
The Atlantic reports the rates of cancer deaths for firefighters have been rising for decades, and experts blame all the synthetic stuff filling our modern homes. "When you burn something that's synthetic or man-made, you're creating strange compounds that we don't know what they'll do," Harvard professor Timothy Rebbeck tells the Atlantic. Plastics, flame retardants, TVs, furniture, cleaning materials, and more create abundant smoke filled with cancer-creating toxins. “Think about smoke as a bunch of carcinogens, because that’s basically what it is,” environmental health professor Virginia Weaver says. Read the whole article here to find out just how dangerous our synthetic homes are to those charged with saving us from them when things go wrong. (Read more firefighters stories.)