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Sharon L. Freeman, Esq., Attorney at Law
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Respiratory dangers firefighters face

When most people think of the dangers firefighters contend with, their thoughts naturally turn to the flames. It is certainly a danger, and many firefighters each year suffer from serious burns. However, firefighters receive training that focuses primarily on avoiding injuries from fires. One area that does not receive as much attention is the smoke

It is more than just smoke from the flames. Some houses contain hazardous materials within the insulation and construction materials, which firefighters breathe in while inside a burning building. All firefighters, while on duty, need to be aware of the dangers, so they can better use their equipment to avoid serious complications. 

Firefighters breathe in more smoke than they realize

To combat respiratory problems, firefighters receive a self-contained breathing apparatus, which provides them with breathable air. Scuba divers use a similar device to be able to breathe without surfacing for long stretches of time. The problem is that many firefighters do not use these devices the proper way. 

Ideally, a firefighter will turn on the device right away, so air starts flowing well before the individual enters the burning building. However, many firefighters wait until they are inside and can actually smell the smoke to turn it on. At this point, the firefighter has already consumed a large amount of smoke and potentially toxic chemicals. 

There are many diseases firefighters can come down with

Frequent exposure to smoke and dangerous chemicals can lead to various health complications. The most common include cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory issues. Dust and smoke inhalation, even when there are no chemicals present, can worsen existing lung problems. Over time, inhalation can lead to bronchitis and inflammation within the lungs. 

Many buildings constructed prior to the 1980s contain asbestos. Firefighters can breathe in this extremely dangerous substance if they do not use the self-contained breathing apparatus the right way. Finally, several types of cancer, such as prostate cancer, melanoma and Hodgkin's lymphoma, can develop as time goes on.

 

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