Avoid Asbestos Exposure When Fighting Fires
AKE is proud to partner with The Mesothelioma Center to bring you this blog post.
Exposure to microscopic asbestos fibers is an often-hidden risk when putting out a fire in a home or business, particularly an older structure that was built when the toxic substance was used so liberally in construction materials. That risk is part of a firefighter’s job today.
Avoiding exposure isn’t easy, but taking the proper precautions can protect a firefighter from inadvertently inhaling or ingesting airborne asbestos fibers that could lead to potential health issues in the future.
Although the use of asbestos has dropped dramatically in the past 20 years, it remains a serious threat when disturbed and possibly airborne. Exposure can lead to a wide variety of health problems, including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer, some many years later.
Ten Ways to Avoid Exposure:
- Firefighters today always should be wearing self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA), protecting them from breathing in any toxic fumes.
- Firefighters should be using personal protective equipment (PPE) which is designed to safeguard them from any number of dangers, including asbestos.
- Make sure that all equipment is up to date and working properly before it leaves the fire station.
- Do not remove equipment until the job is completed. Firefighters too often remove their gear early, putting themselves at risk while they stay on site to break apart ceilings, pipes and walls to look for sparks. Keep the gear on. Asbestos lingers in the air.
- Know the home or building where the fire is. If it was built before 1985, it likely has lots of asbestos in the walls, floor, ceiling and insulation. Even more modern homes still have asbestos on the roofs.
- Clear the area of pedestrians around the fire. Airborne asbestos can travel considerable distance and remain in the air for extended periods of time.
- Make sure the gear is properly cleaned after returning to the fire station. It should be done professionally by a service that understands the toxicity of asbestos and how to handle it.
- Shower well immediately after taking off the gear. Loose fibers could be on the skin, and no amount of asbestos exposure is considered safe.
- Do not bring anything home to expose your family to asbestos fibers. That includes shoes, clothing or equipment. Fibers can cling to the textile part of gear and clothing and remain there until disturbed again.
- If in doubt about any asbestos issue, call an expert to make sure you have a clear understanding of the dangers.