Asbestos Exposure Risks for Firefighters

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Mesothelioma & Asbestos Published on June 14, 2019 and updated on March 6, 2022.

firefighter jacketsFirefighters are widely praised for the work they do in responding to emergencies. While others run out of burning buildings, they run in to save lives. This heroism is not without its risks, including the risk of being exposed to asbestos, the mineral that causes life-threatening diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma.

If you have developed mesothelioma or another serious respiratory condition, the skilled Maryland mesothelioma lawyers at Peter T. Nicholl Law Offices can discuss your legal rights and options during a free legal consultation.

Risk Factors

Asbestos was once widely used in various applications, including for construction material. The following building supplies that contained asbestos were extensively used until the 1980s:

  • Siding
  • Flooring materials
  • Cement sheets
  • Shingles
  • Vinyl tiles and flooring
  • Roof shingles
  • Drywall
  • Joint compound
  • Popcorn ceiling texturizer and other spray-on coating
  • Caulking
  • Sealant
  • Flooring adhesives
  • Pipe, duct and attic insulation
  • Plaster, mud and texture coats
  • Electrical panel plastic and millboard
  • Insulation for boilers and furnaces

Asbestos was cheap and durable, so many buildings built before the 1980s had components that contained it. Therefore, firefighters who are sent into older buildings are at risk of breathing in dangerous asbestos fibers that become disturbed during the burning process. Toxic fibers can easily get into the air when there is a fire.

Additionally, many firehouses are older and may have components with asbestos too, so firefighters can potentially breathe in these fibers simply by reporting to work.

Firefighters who worked at natural disaster sites or terrorist attack sites could have also been exposed to asbestos. For example, after the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, a massive dust cloud formed. Firefighters and volunteers who dug through the contaminated site breathed in asbestos fibers and other harmful substances, leading to special funds being set up to compensate these workers.

Preventing Exposure

There are several ways that firefighters can prevent exposure to asbestos, including the following:

  • Use self-contained breathing apparatuses – It is critical to keep your respiratory equipment on after you enter a building, even if you do not see smoke or fire.
  • Keep debris wet – If possible, you can keep debris wet to limit the amount of dust that is in the air and can be breathed in.
  • Decontaminate your gear – Decontaminate your gear after working in a structure where you could have been exposed to asbestos or other dangerous chemicals or substances. This will help you remove any dangerous fibers from your gear so that you are not re-exposed when you work at another location.
  • Keep your equipment at work – Avoid bringing home contaminated personal protective equipment or gear so that you and your loved ones will not be exposed to asbestos fibers.
  • Get safety training – Fire departments should provide training to firefighters to help prevent exposure to asbestos and other dangerous substances. Talk to your supervisor and see about getting some training scheduled at your work station.
  • Call in professionals – When working at repairing fire houses, call in a professional asbestos abatement company so any asbestos can be properly disposed.
  • Get regular screenings for occupational diseases – Receive medical examinations at least annually so if you have been exposed you will be able to catch it sooner.

It is important to take all steps possible to prevent exposure to asbestos and other harmful substances.

Contact an Experienced Lawyer for Help

If you were exposed to asbestos as a firefighter, it is important that you have a good understanding of your legal rights. The skilled legal team at Peter T. Nicholl Law Offices will thoroughly review your claim and explore all legal options available to you. They can pursue a claim on your behalf so that you can focus on your treatment. Any compensation can help you pay for medical expenses and other damages you have sustained due to asbestos exposure.

For help with your asbestos claim, contact a knowledgeable mesothelioma lawyer to schedule a free consultation.