An independent report conducted by scientists at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and commissioned by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has highlighted the urgent need for action to be taken in order to protect the long-term health of firefighters.
The report comprises the results from on-site indoor air testing at 18 UK fire stations alongside 10,000+ responses to a national firefighter survey conducted by the FBU. A sobering conclusion from UCLan’s on-site testing: “firefighters are still being exposed to the high levels of toxic contaminants during and after a fire, as cancer-causing chemicals remain on PPE clothing, equipment, and elsewhere at the fire ground.” The responses to the survey – designed to better understand firefighter decontamination processes – revealed a disproportionate level of UK firefighters with cancer. In fact, 4.1% of respondents have been diagnosed with cancer, a level four times more than the general population.
The report continues by suggesting it appears firefighters are inadvertently transferring contaminants from the scene of a fire back to the fire station; a finding that echoes research published by the UK Government in its ‘Toxic Chemicals in Everyday Life’ publication. The ‘Toxic Chemicals…’ report states: “Firefighters carrying out their normal work practices can cause cross-contamination of their personal protective equipment.” UCLan’s on-site testing finds the same result as carcinogens were discovered inside firefighters’ helmets, on PPE and on breathing apparatus mask filters.
After Fire Decontamination Best Practices for Fire and Rescue Services
UCLan & the FBU have put together a thorough decontamination best practices guide for fire and rescue personnel. It focuses on the entire firefighter decontamination process, from en-route risk-assessment to a firefighter’s ‘shower within the hour’ of returning from an incident.
One such recommendation centres on the thorough decontamination of PPE and equipment after every incident. In the FBU’s ‘Minimising firefighters’ exposure to toxic fire effluents’ report, on page 52 the advice is: “Contaminated PPE and equipment should be cleaned on site wherever possible prior to transportation…” De-Wipe already has the solution that must now become integrated into this stage of after fire decontamination – De-Wipe After Fire Equipment Wipes.
Another recommendation put forward by the FBU is that ‘all personnel should wash their hands, head, neck, jaw, throat, face, and any other exposed skin areas as deemed necessary with soap and water.’ We know through our experience of working with Fire and Rescue Services worldwide that soap and water on-scene is not often practical. This is especially true with fire investigators, or wildfire and forest firefighters.
De-Wipe’s range of After Fire Decontamination Wipes was developed to overcome this very obstacle. They’re easily transportable, readily available for firefighters on-scene – not to mention scientifically proven to eliminate the most dangerous chlorinated dioxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons produced in fire from skin. In our view, after fire decontamination wipes should be mandatory, not supplied as a bare minimum.
Post-Incident ‘Shower Within the Hour’ Essential
After fire decontamination wipes are effective at removing carcinogenic toxins from exposed areas of the face, neck, hands and arms. As per the FBU’s instructions, firefighters should change into clean gear before re-entering the appliance. However, without a mandatory shower back at the station, firefighters not only run the risk of harmful carcinogenic toxins and impurities found in soot and smoke absorbing through their skin, hair and scalp, but also of spreading the contamination on further into the fire station and even to their homes. De-Wipe has the solution to a healthier ‘shower within the hour’: After Fire Hair & Body Wash.
Fire and Rescue Services need to be aware of the benefits of using an after fire hair and body wash scientifically formulated to eliminate carcinogenic toxins over washing with normal shampoo or shower gel designed for general hygiene. It is well-established harmful carcinogens cannot be removed using standard products; they cling onto hair and skin so as you’re only appearing to be clean.
De-Wipe After Fire Hair & Body Wash is scientifically formulated to wash carcinogenic toxins in soot and smoke from your hair, scalp and body, leaving you clean, invigorated and odour-free.
To quote Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary: “There are some hard truths for fire and rescue services in this report.” Indeed, it was in September 2019 when the UK Fire and Rescue Service rallied together to demand the UK government take swift action to provide protection from cancer. 15 months on, it doesn’t appear any progress has been made. The recommendations in UCLan’s & FBU’s report then are a vital first step to improve the long-term health of firefighters.
Wash Away the Risk - De-Wipe After Fire Hair & Body Wash
For a healthier ‘shower within the hour’.
Fight Cross Contamination - De-Wipe After Fire Equipment Wipes
Scientifically proven to eliminate carcinogens from equipment, clothing and PPE.