Goodyear firefighters sign pledge to fight cancer

Goodyear firefighters will begin signing "Fight against Cancer Pledges" as part of the department's new cancer-prevention efforts.

"In recent months two of our brother firefighters have been diagnosed with and are in the midst of their fight against cancer," the pledge begins. "The stress and uncertainty of such a diagnosis affects not only the member, but their entire family."

Multiple studies have confirmed a long-held belief that firefighters have an increased cancer risk.

A 2006 LeMasters Meta-Analysis study out of the University of Cincinnati identified 10 cancers that firefighters have a greater chance of developing compared to the general population. Those cancers include testicular (a 102 percent greater risk), multiple myeloma (53 percent greater risk) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (51 percent greater risk).

Another study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that firefighters have a 14 percent increased risk of dying from cancer compared to the general population.

In hopes of decreasing those chances, the Goodyear Fire Department has put together a "pledge" with guidelines for their firefighters to adhere to.

Some steps include wearing a SCBA mask during the entirety of the fire fight, using wet wipes to remove soot from sensitive areas like the jaw, under arms and hands, and keeping all contaminated clothes and gear away from living quarters.

The whole pledge can be found at the bottom of this article.

Goodyear isn't the only fire department taking this seriously. We reached out to multiple departments to ask how they are dealing with cancer risks, and here are some of their responses:

PEORIA: "Peoria Fire-Medical crews do not take off their breathing masks at the scene until the air has been cleared by a CO meter. After each shift crews send out their turnouts to be decontaminated if they have been in a fire. Crews wipe down and check equipment after each incident. Peoria is currently in the process of selecting and purchasing a second set of turnouts for each member so they can immediately send turnouts for decontamination after a fire." - Tim Eiden, Public Information Officer

CHANDLER: "The Chandler Fire, Health and Medical Department is actively engaged in the Regional Wellness Committee, which brings most of the regional fire departments together to discuss wellness concerns and targeted solutions. There are three primary target areas to limit firefighter exposure to carcinogens; Ensuring appropriate use of self-contained breathing apparatus, Limiting exposure to contaminated firefighting turnout gear, and Limiting exposure to diesel exhaust fumes. We have addressed each of these areas of concern in policy and by providing the appropriate equipment. For example, the City of Chandler uses NFPA compliant SCBAs that were all replaced just last year. Each member has his or her own SCBA face piece that is tested and certified to fit their face perfectly. Each year, we contract with a company to professionally clean and inspect every set of turnout gear. Additionally, we have purchased separate washing machines for each fire station specifically for regular cleaning of the turnout gear. The protective hoods worn by firefighters are exchanged for clean hoods after every incident where they are worn. In the stations, turnout gear is to be kept outside of the living quarters and exhaust systems have been installed in the bays to quickly exhaust diesel fumes after trucks have been started."

GILBERT: "We are very aware of firefighter exposures as they relate to cancer. We do have SOPG's in place to help reduce the chances of cancer by decontaminating their gear, equipment, and bodies after being exposed to fire or smoke conditions."

Here is part of their Gross Decontamination process: "After a crew is exposed to smoke they will be expected to conduct gross decontamination when exiting the hot zone. This shall be done using the red garden hose stretched out from a fire truck. The crews clean off their masks with SCBA cleaner, as well as wipe down their head, neck, arms, and hands with provided wet wipes. Crews then take off their gear and place in a designated area at least 50' feet away from a rehab area where they will go next to replenish fluids, have vital signs taken, and do a more thorough cleaning of their head, neck, arms, and hands."

RURAL/METRO: "Cancer as a result of on duty exposure to chemicals and smoke are a huge issue for firefighters. It was not until recently that links are being draw between post fire equipment care and carcinogens. We have a guideline under our standard operating guide (SOG) that details prevention and decontamination methods. I will get a copy and forward that to you. I know that it includes decontamination of turn out gear on scene, storage of gear away from main living area, exchanging out hoods immediately for a clean hood, etc."

"In recent months two of our brother firefighters have been diagnosed with and are in the midst of their fight against cancer. The stress and uncertainty of such a diagnosis affects not only the member, but their entire family. With that in mind the Goodyear Fire Department would like to make every effort to support our extended family in any way possible. As an organization, we can do our part to help fight cancer. There have been simple yet effective preventative measures that can be taken to help reduce the risks of cancer. This pledge is simple, but meaningful. I pledge to take these simple preventative steps to help the fight against cancer."