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A NATIONWIDE programme of health monitoring for firefighters is being launched because of the high number of early deaths workers suffer from cancer and heart disease.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said that firefighters’ health is not monitored by fire services despite recent new evidence linking the job to significant incidences of cancer and cardiac disease.
The programme is being launched by the union today in Greater Manchester and will be led by a world expert in fire toxicity, Professor Anna Stec of the University of Central Lancashire in Preston.
Greater Manchester Fire Service is working with the FBU on the programme, which will initially test 100 firefighters.
The results will be used to detect cancers and other diseases in their early stages — and to identify links with exposure to toxic fire chemicals.
The union is also calling on fire services and the government to take “urgent action” to protect firefighters.
Prof Stec said: “It is widely accepted that firefighters are dying from rare cancers up to 15 to 20 years earlier than the general public.
“These cancers and other diseases are detected far too late, with low chances of recovery.
“It is therefore vital that measures such as health monitoring is introduced so firefighters can be properly protected.”
FBU national officer Riccardo la Torre said: “The government and fire service employers have ignored firefighters and their exposures to toxic contaminants for far too long.
“Meanwhile, firefighters are dying far too often and far too early.
“Lack of health monitoring means these cancers are caught tragically late, at much more untreatable stages.
“We won’t stop until every firefighter in Britain has access to regular health monitoring.”
FBU Greater Manchester Brigade secretary Dave Pike said: “This week, firefighters in Greater Manchester are leading the way towards a safer fire service.
“This research project is part of our fight for protections from cancers, in the memory of every firefighter we have already lost.
“Every service across Britain must follow this positive example, and there is much more to be done.
“That is why the FBU is demanding serious action from the government and all fire service employers to protect firefighters from these occupational, deadly diseases.”
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