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 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.
- Hepatitis B/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.
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.
- Accidents (Road Crush)
Emergency service vehicle incidents including crashes, rollovers, and roadside struck-by-incidents are a leading cause of death and injury among firefighters .
Paramedics are surrounded by trauma. They see catastrophic injuries emotional situations and death on a regular basis.
As the first providers of medical care in many situations, they are also subject to a tremendous amount of pressure to do their job right, as they are quite literally making life and death decisions.
Many paramedics struggle with “survivor’s guilt” as a result of this pressure and stress.
While many paramedics “desensitize” themselves and develop their own coping mechanisms, the stress and trauma exposure can simply build up over time.
Substance abuse issues-along with mental health disorders-are easily developed in this pressure career.
These problems can compound, increasing the need for specific rehabilitation for firefighters.
According to the UN – Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) “Any activity/incident that is large in size, long in duration, and/or labor intensive will rapidly deplete the energy and strength of personnel and their merits consideration for rehabilitation.”