Firefighter Cancer Study on Flame Retardants

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A study that came out last year, linked cancer to flame retardants in firefighters.  It was a thorough and one of kind study.  To quote,

“Our study provides clear evidence that firefighters are exposed to high levels of cancer-causing chemicals including brominated flame retardants and their combustion by-products – dioxins and furans – that are formed during fires by the burning of flame-retarded foam furniture, televisions, computers and building materials. Firefighters have much higher levels and different patterns of these chemicals in their blood than the general population. There is no doubt that firefighting is a dangerous occupation. What we have shown here points to the possible link between firefighting and cancer.”

During fires, large amounts of cancer-causing dioxins and furans are produced by combustion of materials containing brominated and chlorinated substrate. Since firefighters are known to have high rates of cancer, the study focuses on the exposure of firefighters to these compounds while firefighting.

Previous studies of firefighters have focused on exposure to chlorinated dioxins and furans. This pilot study is the first to measure brominated dioxins/furans (PBDD/Fs) in blood of firefighters. Because homes and offices contain large amounts of brominated flame retardants, we expected to find brominated dioxins/furans in firefighter blood.

*Brominated dioxin and furan concentrations in firefighter blood were extremely high, and were 21 times more toxic than the chlorinated dioxins and furans. The authors conclude that brominated dioxins and furans may pose a greater cancer risk to firefighters than previously thought.

*Patterns of the brominated flame retardants, PBDEs in the firefighters were dominated by deca-BDE. A deca-dominated pattern is not found in the general population, but is typical of the pattern found in blood of e waste recyclers continuously exposed to deca-BDE resulting from open burning of plastic TVs and computers.

*The firefighters also had elevated levels of two perfluorinated chemicals, PFOA and PFNA. PFOA, a cancer-causing chemical that is linked to the risk of stroke, was phased out of commerce in 2001 but is released in large amounts from household and building materials during fires.

*The findings of this pilot study indicate that firefighters are at risk for cancer and serious health effects from their occupational exposure. A larger study of firefighters is planned.

Read more about the study at the Marine Environmental Research Institute.

Hear the lead scientist talk about the findings in the video:

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