Firefighters face serious risks on the job such as heat exhaustion, burns, physical, mental stress and accidents (vehicle crash). Additionally, they frequently come into contact with high levels of carbon monoxide and other toxic hazards. With these dangerous exposures, this line of work presents a likelihood for many diseases. Firefighters who smoke or engage in other unhealthy lifestyle habits are at even a greater risk. Smoking increases the risk of getting heart disease, cancer, respiratory illnesses, stress, and poorer treatment outcomes for certain diseases, such as hepatitis.
- Heart Disease
Heart attacks accounts for 45 percent of all work-related deaths among firefighters. The risk is elevated during the act of firefighting itself. It can be the result of intense work near hot fires, exposure to carbon monoxide, and other stresses associated with the job. Lack of physical fitness, being overweight, and smoking make these risks higher.
Firefighters who also smoke have a higher risk from Carbon monoxide and other pulmonary issues. High levels of physical and mental stress make the heart require more oxygen; however, breathing in more carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen a firefighter receives. This can cause heart attacks from both coronary artery diseases and from abnormal heart rhythms.
According to a National Occupational Safety and Health study, firefighters are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with invasive cancer than the average person. Firefighters commonly come into contacts with dangerous, cancer-causing materials when they fight a fire. Firefighters are at increased risk of getting cancers of the colon, brain, bladder, kidney, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
According to Fire and Rescue International Statistics show that, Brain cancer-2.6 percent, Colon cancer-19.3 percent and Hodgkin’s lymphoma-2.3 percent, these diseases caused death to the firefighters about 3 percent from 2010 to 2021.
According to International Association of Firefighters in 2017 reports that cancer is the disease that causes the most death among firefighters, with a 61 percent rate of career line-of-duty deaths among firefighters between 2002 and 2017 being caused by it.
- Chronic Respiratory Disease
Firefighters are occupationally exposure to toxicants and respiratory tract irritant including: sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, phosgene, nitrogen oxides, aldehydes and particulate.
Firefighters may have increased risk for interstitial lung disease and autoimmunity as a result of inhalation exposure over years of service.
The worst impacts of lungs illness can strike experienced firefighters, especially those who smoke. Firefighters are exposed to numerous respiratory risks that can cause significant and permanent lung damage. Beyond work-related exposure to burning chemical substances, a firefighter who smoke cigarettes can be contaminated by the same burning substances, only to dramatically increase their risk of chronic respiratory diseases.
According to the International Association of Firefighter (2010 to 2021),there are 2 percent of the firefighters who use cigarettes.
- Hepatitis B and C and HIV/AIDS
Firefighters are often the first emergency workers to arrive at an accident and emergency medical. They can then easily come into contact with blood that may have been contaminated with the hepatitis B/C and HIV viruses during emergency rescue operations.
According to International Association of Firefighter show that, a total of 53 firefighters were infected with HIV which is 13.7 percent and 17 died due to HIV and other under ARV medication, hepatitis B is around 2.2 percent and hepatitis C about 0.5 percent which cause death by 3 percent.
Firefighting is an extremely demanding, high pressure job, enough stress can cause many illnesses in the body, since our mental health is directly correlated with our physical health. Also, those under stress tend to smoke more and find it harder to quit.
Upon studying, we found that firefighters experienced a range of psychological stressors (including interpersonal conflict and concerns over organization fairness) and observed that these stressors were associated with a number of health-related outcomes that could be post-traumatic stress disorders, suicide, alcoholism, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and tobacco use.
There are 107(1.15%) firefighters who has psychological related problem and hence no access to counselling service within locality and 08 firefighters died which is 10% of total death between 2010 to 2021, according to the International Firefighter.
- Accidents (Vehicle Crush)
Emergency service vehicle incidents including crashes, rollovers, and roadside struck-by-incidents are a leading cause of death and injury among firefighters ,
According to the International Association of Firefighter (2010 – 2021), there are 14 of 68 fatalities resulting from collisions involving a fire service vehicle during an emergency response were occupants of the other vehicle, pedestrians, or bicyclists. Of 108 total deaths,14(6.2%) from trauma (vehicle crush). At the time of death, the firefighters were between 18 and 56 years old.
For a firefighting operation, there are certain important steps to take in order to ensure that firefighters remain healthy and do not succumb to these illnesses or health conditions as a result of their work.