BOSTON (WHDH) - Firefighting is a dangerous job but once the fire is out, the hazards are still there.
Firefighters are exposed to many toxins throughout their career and now a new study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital is giving those who are called to save us — new hope.
David McElroy is a 30-year veteran new Hampshire firefighter.
“Love it – it’s the best job in the world,” McElroy said.
He told 7NEWS that the dangers of the job don’t stop when the flames are out. He is currently battling his third bout of cancer.
“I beat it twice, I can definitely beat it a third time – absolutely,” he said,
He believes toxins in the air at fire scenes have made him sick.
“All this stuff is constantly off-gassing even when there’s no smoke,” McElroy explained.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has found that firefighters are at an increased risk for cancer.
“People aren’t dying rescuing people in fires. They’re dying from cancer,” he said.
Researchers at Mass General want to prevent that so they are now offering hundreds of New England firefighters free, low dose CT scans.
“This tool is extremely effective in finding early lung cancers and saving lives,” Dr. Lecia Sequist, from the Mass General Cancer Center said.
As part of the Mass General study, McElroy’s doctors and the researchers have been monitoring small cancerous growths in his lungs.
“What we’re really looking to do is, understand what goes on with firefighters. What’s going on with their lung health, their heart health and other cancer risks? Can we document that there are differences,” said Dr. Sequist. “That would lead to them being able to access screening and can we screen them to save lives.”
For now, firefighters like McElroy continue to battle.
“It is tough. I have a daughter and I have a son. You have to beat it for them,” he said.
The Mass General researchers are also scanning for other health threats like heart disease.
If you are a firefighter – or you love one –sign up for the study, click here.
(Copyright (c) 2024 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)