The Risk Of Being A Firefighter 

By Guest Author | firefighters | March 27, 2022

A firefighter’s job is not only dangerous but also stressful. The risks to their health are very real. Firefighters are prone to experiencing both mental and physical stress. 

They also face a significant risk of exposure to chemicals, breathing in smoke and contaminants, and experiencing heat exhaustion. As such cases continue to grow, it is important to make sure that firefighters have the right tools to do their job safely while protecting themselves from the dangers they face on the job every day. Let’s briefly look at the most prominent diseases that firefighters are susceptible to. 

Heart-related diseases 

The risk of heart attack is higher in firefighters than in any other profession. This is due to the amount of work that they do, which includes running up and downstairs, carrying heavy equipment, and breathing noxious smoke. 

Also, the job itself requires intense work in an unsafe environment where they are exposed to gases like carbon monoxide. This gas is known for its dangerous damage since it lowers oxygen levels by binding to hemoglobin irreversibly. Hence, a person that inhales too much carbon monoxide does not survive. 

As a result, 45% of firefighters suffer from heart attacks which is a significant number indicating a direct correlation. 

Moreover, other contributors are lifestyle-related such as smoking, weight issues etc. These habits further increase the risk of firemen developing heart diseases in the future. 


Firefighters are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than the general population.A National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study found that firefighters are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer than the general population.

This is because of the hazardous chemicals they are exposed to in their line of work. They have an increased risk of developing lung, throat, stomach, and brain cancer. It is also because firefighters are exposed to higher levels of certain carcinogens during fires, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, benzene, and formaldehyde. 

Another such severe chemical is Firefighting foam, or aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) used to tackle the fire. This, too, is carcinogenic and numerous firefighters have suffered due to this. The study recommends that firefighters should wear respiratory protection masks during fires and avoid contact with chemicals when possible.

The authorities need to be more vigilant and careful for the firefighters. Such foam should be replaced with a system that is not harmful to firefighters. If you ever suffer from AFFF cancer, it is your right to take the matters to the court, as your health and safety was ignored. Hire an experienced AFFF lawsuit lawyer, they will make sure you are heard. This is a matter of grave disregard and ignorance from the authorities, it should be questioned. 

Hepatitis virus

Whenever there’s a medical or any other emergency, firefighters are the first ones to arrive. During their duty, it’s quite possible that firemen get infected by Hepatitis B or C virus. This is because it can spread via blood, and they can come in contact with it. 

Lung or chronic respiratory diseases 

A firefighter’s job is to protect and save lives. But they are the ones who face health-related consequences.  Apparently, the worst impacts of lung illness can strike experienced firefighters, especially those who smoke. 

Firefighters are exposed to many harmful elements, such as smoke and poisonous chemicals. These substances can cause lung problems, such as asthma or emphysema. The risk of developing these illnesses increases with the number of years a firefighter has been working in this profession.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set standards for firefighters’ exposure to these hazardous materials. However, these standards are not always followed because some fire departments do not have the resources to provide adequate protection for their firefighters. This is why many of these firefighters suffer from chronic lung disease later in life, and it’s a severe health issue. 

Mental stress and PTSD 

A quite unfortunate problem that several firemen have to combat later in their life is mental health issues. A published study by the US fire administration shed more light on how constant trauma can trigger mental disorders. 

Firefighters go through traumatic experiences repeatedly, and it causes mental illnesses such as PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder). Also, firemen are under a lot of stress and pressure to save lives, but it takes a toll on them, due to which they turn to develop unhealthy habits like smoking. 

Hearing loss 

Lastly, firemen suffer from hearing loss since they often have to listen to loud emergency alarms for prolonged times. Overall, sounds like sirens affect the hearing ability of firefighters, which is a long-term health problem. 


To conclude, firefighters are prone to major health diseases that can also be life-threatening. Some of the common ones cause severe damage to vital organs of the body, including the heart, lungs, brain, liver, etc. In short, firefighters should be equipped with high-quality protective gear to safeguard themselves from being exposed to toxic chemicals and gases that directly or indirectly damage them.

Cover photo by Jay Heike on Unsplash