The job of a firefighter is widely associated with a fit and healthy lifestyle – working a physically demanding job and undertaking annual fitness assessments – but the reality brings a number of hidden risks. A growing body of research from around the world since the tragedy of 9/11 suggests that firefighters have an increased risk of developing long-term illnesses such as cancer and heart disease compared to the general population.
Until now, the UK has been slow to conduct its own research into the effects of long-term exposure to fire effluents on health, making it nearly impossible to link long-term health conditions to the job of being a firefighter. But in November 2020, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) published a ground-breaking and detailed best practice report highlighting their extensive research into the subject.
The project was commissioned and funded by the Fire Brigade Union (FBU). General Secretary Matt Wrack writes in his introduction: ‘This report not only provides evidence of the heightened risk faced by firefighters through their work, but also delivers clear and authoritative guidance to fire and rescue services across the UK about the measures they can take to minimise firefighters’ exposure to contaminants’.