Firefighters rally to ban cancer causing agents
Pairs of firefighter boots decorate the steps of San Francisco
City Hall today during a rally to draw attention to the 215 firefighters
whose lives were lost to cancer in the last eight years as a result
of prolonged exposure to toxic cancer-causing agents.
By Brent Begin
April 24, 2007
Firefighters gathered today in front of City Hall to bring attention
to a danger of the job that often goes overlooked.
For many who work dousing blazes, prolonged exposure to burning
fire retardant materials can lead to cancer, and at least one
state official is working to change that.
Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, is working to push a
bill through the state legislature that would ban two of those
cancer-causing materials in household items such as pillows and
"Our firefighters, who put themselves at risk for us every
day, are having their lives cut short by cancer at an alarming
rate," Leno said in a statement.
"Toxic cancer-causing substances, such as dioxin, are created
when some chemical fire retardants in our furniture burn -- and
may be the cause of elevated cancer risk for our brave men and
Tom O'Connor, president of the newly founded San Francisco Firefighters
Cancer Prevention Foundation and an active firefighter in the
city's Fire Department said that firefighters shouldn't have to
face more obstacles in an already dangerous job.
"We want to let San Franciscans know that cancer is plaguing
our workforce," O'Connor said.
According to the prevention foundation, firefighters have significantly
elevated rates of four types of cancer: multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin's
lymphoma, prostate, and testicular cancer.
In San Francisco, 35 active duty firefighters have contracted
job-related cancers in the last eight years, and 15 of them have
died. In the last ten years, 215 retired firefighters have contracted
cancer and 25 of them have died.
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