Look around you.
Everything that surrounds us, from buildings to furniture, cars to electronics, is made out of chemicals. When these materials catch fire, they emit noxious chemicals that firefighters are exposed to every day.
Each time firefighters answer a 911 call to douse a burning building or vehicle, they’re exposed to toxic fumes, irritants, particulates and heated gases no matter what personal protective gear they wear.
Today’s fires burn hotter and spread much faster than ever. And the toxins firefighters are exposed to, they go home with the first responders.
Higher risks of cancers, cardiac issues
As a result of this danger — and the stress of the job — some cancers and heart-related troubles affect firefighters at much higher rates than the general public. This linkage is not simply our opinion: It has been borne out by scientific studies done over many years worldwide.
Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, as well as scientific studies from several other independent agencies, provide conclusive evidence that firefighters are more likely to get many types of cancers and have a much higher incidence of cardiac disease compared to the average worker.
There is no other explanation why young, physically fit firefighters are dying from cancer and heart issues.
Today, 34 states have a presumption law for cancer. Arizona is among them, but our statute has not been updated in over 16 years.
What our bills would do for firefighters
Which leads us to today.
We have included in our legislation protections (including a national standard called the NFPA 1582 protocol) that no other state in the union has. This will ensure industry-related health issues are caught early and that firefighters are fit and healthy to continue saving lives and protecting us. This protocol includes extensive physical blood work, body mass index, treadmill and other physical exams.
The job of firefighters includes carrying at least 50 pounds of gear and also tools weighing 20 to 40 pounds. They drag hoses, do extensive crawling, lift and carry heavy objects, ventilate roofs and walls, and climb flights of stairs. All this in extremely hot environments for prolonged periods of time — and, in northern Arizona, in extreme cold.
The conditions they face are often critical, time-sensitive, stressful, hazardous and physically exhausting , such as dark, tightly enclosed spaces. Meanwhile, firefighters operate under abnormal sleep patterns, irregular hours and dehydration. They work 48-hour shifts, and sometimes 72-hour shifts. Nonstop.
These firefighters are dying with their boots off. This isn’t an on-the-job death, but an off-the-job one.
We at the Legislature always vote for bills that honor firefighters after they have passed away. Let’s honor these heroes while they’re alive by supporting the cardiac and cancer bills that are working their way to the governor’s desk.