Firefighter Cancer Prevention - What YOU can do NOW

Photo credit: Drawn by Fire By Paul Combs

The traditional days of proudly coming home, covered in soot and smelling like smoke to show off your hard days work as a firefighter, are over – or at least they should be. In last month’s article, we talked about different innovations in turnout gear and PPE that help lessen fatigue to support your health and safety as a firefighter. This month, we’re focusing on another health & safety concern: cancer. In research conducted by the Firefighter Cancer Support Network Report, cancer is the “most dangerous and unrecognized threat to the health and safety” of firefighters, whom have statistically higher rates of multiple types of cancers compared to the general population. So what’s the cause of the rising cancer diagnoses in fire halls? Those pretty black “badges of honour” called carcinogens.

Photo 1: Post-Aerosol Particulate Exposure while wearing a Standard FR Knit Hood

Outlined in the December 2016 issue of Fire Fighting in Canada, many departments are implementing decontamination and hygiene protocols to reduce the risk of continuous carcinogen exposure that has already penetrated turnout gear. While these protocols should be implemented in every hall, despite requiring some time and effort - they are highly effective, they are more advances your department can take to reduce your risk even more:

  • TECGEN PPE: Since a second set of turnout gear is probably not in your budget, and also unnecessary for 90% of your calls, we have an alternative that will please both your budget and your health. TECGEN PPE is an alternative to structural turnout gear, designed to be worn as daily PPE (extrication, MVIs, rescue, incident command and more) between cleanings of your structural gear. Because TECGEN PPE isn’t designed for structural fires, you won’t be exposing the gear to contamination, thus minimizing your risk to the carcinogens that have penetrated and gotten trapped in your structural turnout gear, every time you put it on. It's only one layer of TECGEN's lightweight, breathable fabric, and is dual-certified to NFPA 1977/1951.

  • H41 INTERCEPTOR HOOD:The H41 Interceptor™ with Nomex® Nano Flex was designed to keep potentially carcinogenic particulates and other harmful contaminants off of firefighters’ jaws, faces, and necks. These areas were identified as highly absorptive and more permeable than other areas of skin (1), and are likely not getting enough protection from hazardous particles with the standard FR knit hood (2). The FAST Test Report demonstrated that particles penetrated the standard FR knit hood and left a concentrated, heavy deposit on the subject’s neck, cheeks, ears and jaw (2) (shown above in Photo 1). Testing has shown that particulates sized at less than .2 microns (soot and smoke particles are usually 1 micron or less) don't have enough mass to make it through the double layer knit and the Nomex® Nano Flex; essentially meaning that this hood blocks 100% of particulates less than .2 microns.

For more information on TECGEN PPE or H41 Interceptor Hood, please contact your WFR sales rep or visit the links above. For ideas on how to implement a decon program at your department, view page 10 in Fire Fighting in Canada’s December 2016 issue: Keeping Clean: Affordable hygiene protocol for volunteer departments by Rob Grimwood.

(1) "Taking Action Against Cancer in the Fire Service", Firefighter Cancer Support Network, August 2013,
(2) "Fluorescent Aerosol Screening Test (FAST) Test Report", Commissioned by the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), conducted by Research Testing Institute (RTI), January 2015,

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