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Fire isn't the only danger firefighters face

Firefighters are true heroes. Many would say it's a calling. They run into burning buildings without regard for their own safety in order to save the lives of others. They wade into car crashes, industrial accidents and otherwise help people at some of the worst moments of their lives.

If you joined this noble profession, you know to take as many precautions as possible to keep yourself safe while doing your job. You know how to deal with flames, wreckage and injured people, but you may not always be able to protect yourself from another danger: carcinogens.

Where there's fire, there's smoke

When fighting fires, it isn't just the flames you battle. The smoke could contain numerous carcinogens, depending on where the call takes you. In fact, a study conducted by the University of Ottawa in Canada yielded some startling results.

Researchers took skin and urine samples from firefighters when they began their shifts and then after going to a fire. The results indicated that the amount of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other harmful chemicals rose anywhere from three to over five times after a fire. PAHs can cause cancer and mutations of DNA. The potential for genetic mutations averaged an increase of over four times the levels prior to the fire.

Since the kidneys generally function as the body's waste disposal system, the presence of these carcinogenic elements in firefighters' urine indicates they were first in the blood. Even though other studies already confirmed the potential for firefighters to suffer from cancers and other debilitating illnesses at rates higher than the general population, this study is the first to look at the risks of exposure to the chemicals from smoke at fires.

Smoke-related illnesses and workers' compensation

If you suffer an illness due to exposure to carcinogens from smoke, workers' compensation benefits are an entitlement. However, receiving those benefits doesn't always work out as it should. After years of service, you deserve to focus on your health and not on battling with insurance companies and your employer.

You may want to consider working with a compassionate and experienced workers' compensation attorney. He or she can advocate on your behalf to get you the benefits you need in order to take care of your current and future medical needs, along with providing you with a portion of your income and with any other benefits you may also be eligible for, depending on your circumstances.

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