Asbestos Risks For Firefighters

James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C. has represented thousands of people who have been injured by exposure to asbestos. In many cases, people who develop asbestos related diseases have been exposed to asbestos through their work. Some of the most serious exposures have occurred among miners, millers and pipefitters, but asbestos disease can occur in any trade where workers have been exposed to asbestos dust. Firefighters, for instance, are occupationally exposed to asbestos, and develop asbestos related diseases.

Asbestos was commonly used in buildings built before 1990 in insulation, drywall, soundproofing, floor and ceiling tiles, roofing material, wiring and plumbing. During fires, these materials can crack and crumble, releasing air borne asbestos. After the fire is put out, fire personnel can experience additional exposure as they tear down walls and ceilings, searching for hot spots or victims.

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Fire fighters can also be exposed to asbestos living and working in their fire stations because many of these facilities were repurposed from old municipal structures build with asbestos containing materials. Buildings with steam heat often had asbestos insulation on steam pipes and boilers.

Exposure has also resulted from using protective gear that contained asbestos. Older hats and coats often contained asbestos. Although much of this gear has been phased out, even some of the newer suits and gloves may contain small amounts of asbestos.

 Various studies have confirmed that fire fighters suffer more asbestos related disease than the general population. For example, a 1991 study of New York City firefighters found an increased incidence of asbestos induced pulmonary and pleural fibrosis (scarring). More recently, a  study of  16, 422  fire fighters from five Nordic countries found an increased risk of mesothelioma, a fatal cancer almost always caused by asbestos exposure, and lung adenocarcinoma. 

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 In 2013, a NIOSH led study reported an increased risk of mesothelioma in a cohort of almost 30,000 firefighters from San Francisco, Philadelphia and Chicago. The reported incidence of mesothelioma in this group was more than twice the rate among the general population, while the incidence of lung cancer was about 10% higher.  Phase II of this study, which was reported in 2015, indicated that the chance of lung cancer diagnosis or death increased with the amount of time spent at fires.

Firefighters should shower and change their clothes before going home to avoid contaminating their homes and exposing family members to asbestos.      

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by exposure to asbestos, call us at 304-881-0652 (local) or 877-341-2595  (toll free) for a free initial consultation. You can also contact us through our website, .



CDC/NIOSH, “Findings From a Study of Cancer Among U.S. Fire Fighters,” July 2016, 

Daniels, et al, “Mortality and Cancer Incidence in a Pooled Cohort of US Firefighters From San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia (1950-2009), Occup. Environ. Med. October 14, 2013,

Pukkala, et al, “Cancer Incidence among Firefighters: 45 Years of Follow-Up in Five Nordic Countries,” Occup. Environ. Med. 2014 June : 71(6):398-404;

Firefighter Cancer Support Network, “FAQS: Preventing Cancer in the Fire Service,”

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