Most people think that firefighters are heroes. They rush into burning buildings to save pets, babies, and older, immobilized adults. They save countless lives and property damage across the country every single day.
Being a firefighter is dangerous, though, and that goes beyond smoke and flames. For instance, some firefighters are ill because of being exposed to a particular kind of foam.
In this article, we’ll talk about how your lifestyle might change if you’re one of these individuals.
The foam that makes firefighters sick is AFFF or aqueous film-forming foam. Firefighters used it for a long time for fire suppression. Now, doctors have linked it to several serious illnesses and conditions.
Some of them include:
- Certain cancers
It’s not just firefighters that might have risked exposure to AFFF while on the job. Some airline employees, military workers, and gas or oil workers might also have encountered it.
Now that doctors know how dangerous AFFF is, most industries no longer use it. Still, for some brave men and women, it’s too little and too late.
What Makes this Foam So Dangerous?
The problem with AFFF is that it contains harmful carcinogens. It contains:
Doctors call both of these “forever chemicals.” This means that with exposure to them, they never break down inside your body. That sounds scary, and it is.
There are several cancers that medical professionals link to AFFF exposure. Those include liver, prostate, breast, pancreatic, testicular, and kidney cancer. Any one of those can be fatal if you contract it.
A little bit of foam exposure might not do much to you, but remember that individuals like firefighters often faced exposure to AFFF quite a lot.
What Can You Do if You Have Contracted Cancer from AFFF?
Regrettably, if you are a current or former firefighter who faced exposure to AFFF over the years, you can’t go back in time to change what happened. What you should do is be hypervigilant and get your doctor to check you regularly to see if you exhibit any cancer signs.
If you have contracted cancer from AFFF, you’ll need to talk to your doctor about your options. Some cancers are highly aggressive, while others are more benign or slower-developing.
If you do contract cancer, you may be able to fight it through chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a kind of drug treatment. Doctors use powerful chemicals to try to stop cancer growth.
What Does Chemotherapy Feel Like?
If you ever talk to someone going through chemotherapy, they’ll likely agree that it’s one of the more challenging things you may ever have to do. It can leave you feeling sick or weak. You might have to deal with allergic reactions or nausea.
Some people respond better to it than others, and some cancers do as well. You can sometimes completely halt cancer’s spread, and you might survive if you’re lucky.
At the same time, you must be ready to put your life on hold. You can go through the treatment and hope that you’ll recover with your family and friends helping and supporting you.
Don’t expect that you’ll be able to do most of your everyday activities, though. Make no mistake: you’re in a fight, and you probably can’t go to work as you usually would. You likely can’t eat your favorite foods, work out at the gym, etc.
Chemotherapy will become your life for a while. You won’t be able to do much of anything else till you find out whether your cancer is in remission.
What It Does to Your Family
It’s going to be hard on you, but on your family as well. If you have a spouse or significant other, this will be a tough time for them. If you have kids, they’ll worry about you too.
You should try to be brave for them if you can. This is a time when you’ll need to come together to support one another as never before.
AFFF is one of just many substances that medical science now knows is harmful. Unfortunately, it follows a familiar pattern: humans find something that we think is useful, and only years later do we realize the damage that it’s doing. Think about what fossil fuels have done to the planet, for instance.
If you have worked with AFFF, you’ll have to hope and pray that you survive the exposure with no side effects. Ideally, you will be one of the lucky ones.