A declaration that occupational exposure as a firefighter has been classified as carcinogenic has been described as “hugely significant” by the firefighters’ trade union.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said the decision by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a World Health Organisation body, was a vital step forward to getting firefighters the recognition and protection that they need to do their jobs safely.
The FBU said the move comes against a background of studies around the world proving that there are links between firefighting and cancer, including in the UK where University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) research found that surveyed firefighters were four times more likely to have been diagnosed with cancer than the general population.
Riccardo la Torre, FBU national officer, said: “Firefighters have known for some time now that their occupational exposure to toxic contaminants has links to cancer and this development is a hugely significant and vital step forward to getting firefighters the recognition and protection that they need to do their jobs safely.
“This classification should be a huge wake-up call for both the government and fire and rescue services.
“Government now need to urgently acknowledge that cancer is an occupational hazard within firefighting.
“They also need to be pushing ahead with urgent improvements to protect firefighters from fire contaminants by utilising the union’s ground-breaking training.
“We also recognise that this news will be worrying for firefighters and want to reassure all of our members that the union will fight to protect your safety at work.
“No one should get ill from going to work, and firefighters deserve to go home at the end of their shift as safely and healthily as they begun it.
“It’s now time to sit up, listen and act to protect firefighters from this life-threatening occupational hazard.”