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Federal Agencies to Study Causes of Firefighters' Cancers
Date:5/2/2010

and sample a database of more than 18,000 current and former career firefighters (that is, not volunteer), hopes to use the expanded information to not only create more reliable statistical extrapolations regarding firefighter disease and injury, but to isolate the prevalence of certain cancers from the larger population, giving health care workers and insurers a valid footing from which to compare the risks of various causes of death.

Firefighters are inevitably exposed to smoke, soot and fumes from fires in which potential carcinogens like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, formaldehyde and asbestos are burnt. In the case of PAHs, their incomplete combustion (which can also occur when cooking meat over charcoal, or burning gasoline in a poorly tuned automobile engine) can lead to reproductive effects, skin rashes, and cancer.

Formaldehyde, the chief ingredient used in embalming (preserving human or animal bodies after death), is another toxin listed on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s (ATSDR) site. ATSDR, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, lists formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen that, even at lesser doses, causes severe eye, skin and respiratory tract irritant, which can also damage the gastrointestinal tract and cause respiratory failure and acute renal failure.

Asbestos, though not initially toxic, can lead to a number of illnesses and diseases, namely asbestosis (which is not unlike COPD or asthma) and malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma, most often diagnosed as malignant pleural (in the lungs) mesothelioma, is a form of cancer with a long dormancy period, during which the disease produces few symptoms.

Once patients cross some as-yet undiagnosed threshold, '/>"/>

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