The data on cancer risk and firefighters is clear. The CDC research shows that firefighters have a much higher risk for developing certain cancers than other workers in less dangerous and less toxic jobs. One way to mitigate this risk is with the proper equipment. When a building is on fire, or there is a car accident or hazardous materials spill, firefighters are the first ones on the scene. Fumes from these events as well as exposure to chemicals happens, but with the right gear, firefighters can stay healthier
The challenge, as in many things, is money. Smaller fire departments in rural areas or poorer inner cities struggle to come up with the funds to buy things like improved washing machines to get chemicals out of protective clothing (at a cost of $10,000 per machine) and extra gear to have on hand ($2,000). More than just clothing, facilities and vehicles matter as well. Diesel fire engines spew fumes into the living quarters of firefighters and that impacts indoor air quality requiring costly ventilation systems. Many towns turn to fundraising when the budget isn't there, but the challenge remains.