UK Firefighters’ Trade Union to expand fire contaminants research work

UK Firefighters’ Trade Union to expand fire contaminants research work

UK Firefighters’ Trade Union is set to develop its training and research into the links between firefighting and cancer and disease.

The organisation will look to establish the best practice on contamination expanded throughout the Fire and Rescue Service, including via national guidance, contaminants monitoring, cancer screening, fire station design principles and more.

The Trade Union has also voted to expand the research of 11,000 firefighters to take into account the research studies and reports suggesting that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are hazardous to health.

Riccardo la Torre, the FBU’s national officer, said: “It’s overwhelming to see how much our members, our Health and Safety reps and our reps in branches have taken this campaign on board. I watched a friend and a brother die from this disease. It took Steve’s tongue before it took his life. Another very good friend of mine contracted the exact same cancer: face, tongue and throat. He had never smoked in his life. We can be the DECON generation.”

Several firefighters have also shared their emotional testimony of how cancer has affected them and their fellow firefighters after years of service. Firefighter Steve Burns recounted how the past decade has been “tough” due to 19 rounds of chemotherapy. “We in the UK are well behind [with research] and need to catch up.”

La Torre added: “The Trade Union’s work so far has raised awareness of the risks of fire contaminants and taken steps to prevent those risks. Now, we want to take the next step and make sure that decontamination is really embedded across the Fire and Rescue Service at all levels. With new policy on national guidance, monitoring, screening and much more, we’re confident we are taking significant steps here that will help to create healthier firefighters in the future.”

PFAS are highly persistent chemicals thought to have a wide range of possible health effects, which the research aims to fully uncover. These compounds are thought to be present in some firefighting foams and uniforms. A motion at last month’s National Conference has committed the Trade Union to working towards enhanced cancer screening, with all Fire and Rescue Services monitoring fire contaminant exposure levels and focusing on the health of their firefighters.