There are many dangers to fire service, and they last long after returning from the scene of a fire or even retirement. Firefighters are at risk of long-term health problems associated with their time on the job. Here are five common long-term health risks of being a firefighter.
Common Health Risks of Being a Firefighter
1. Heart Disease
Heart disease is one of the main long-term health problems affecting firefighters. Repeated exposure to extreme temperatures, toxic chemicals and overexertion on the job contribute to heart disease among firefighters. In fact, according to a 2013 study of 478 active-duty firefighters conducted by National Volunteer Fire Council, 73% of respondents said that they are more concerned about dying from a heart attack than in the line of duty.
Fire emergencies do not only present the prospect of severe injury or death by burns for firefighters. Equally as dangerous as the flames themselves are the toxic chemicals emitted during fire emergencies. These chemicals are just as dangerous to the well-being of firefighters, and are the chief reason for the growing epidemic of cancer among firefighters.
3. Alcohol Abuse
Firefighters see some of the worst of society when they arrive on the scene of a fire or other emergency. This repeated exposure to trauma could be a factor in the levels of alcohol and substance abuse among some firefighters. According to a 2013 study, firefighters were nearly twice as likely to engage in binge drinking compared to the general public.
4. PTSD and Mental Health
PTSD is a growing problem among America’s firefighters. Last year, the U.S. Fire Administration published a study that examined the effects of repeated exposure to trauma on firefighters. According to the study, repeated exposure to traumatic events are a greater cause of mental health disorders like PTSD than one single event. The study also found that repeated exposure to trauma leads to desensitivity, irritability and flashbacks.
5. Hearing loss
Hearing loss is just one more long-term health risks for firefighters. Repeated and prolonged exposure to sirens, alarms and the other noise that come from working at scenes of emergencies cause many firefighters to lose their hearing.