NIOSH provided a status update on its long-term firefighter cancer study in partnership with the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Cancer Institute.
long-term firefighter cancer study, conducted in partnership with the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Cancer Institute. The goal of the study is to determine whether firefighters have a higher risk of cancer and other illness due to on-the-job toxin exposure. Researchers are analyzing the health of more than 30,000 firefighters who worked between 1950 and 2010 at San Francisco, Philadelphia and Chicago fire departments.provided a status update on its
“The cooperation of the fire departments in these three cities has been exceptional,” Study Director Travis Kubale wrote in a NIOSH newsletter. “Department staff, city officials and union leaders have gone out of their way to welcome us and help us get underway with the project.”
Kubale said they are near completion of identifying all firefighters who worked during 1950 to 2010. Researchers have collected their individual work histories and are in the process of gathering exposure information, including fire runs made and the dates of when personal protective equipment and diesel exhaust controls were put into place at the departments.
However, gathering data is no easy task. Each fire department has a unique ways of keeping records.
“NIOSH team members work with fire department staff (personnel, payroll, and information technology), retirement board and fire museum staff to locate the information needed for the study. Some departments archive records off-site, which we retrieve and review,” Kubale wrote. “Once we locate and collect the records, we spend many hours poring over ledgers, annual report and microfiche. This time-intensive process is critical for the study’s integrity. To date, NIOSH data coders have made approximately 790,000 separate data entries for the San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia departments.”
Once all the data are collected, researchers will examine whether certain cancers and other illnesses occur more frequently among firefighters compared to the general population by looking at causes of death.
“The findings from our study will be important because the results will help determine whether firefighting increases the chance for getting certain cancers and illnesses,” he wrote.
Sidebar: Timeline for the Study
- NIOSH and the U.S. Fire Administration announce the initiation of a study of U.S. firefighters.
- Partnership established with the National Cancer Institute.
- ≈ 30,000 firefighters from Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco are identified for study, beyond original goal of 18,000.
- Work begins to collect data on firefighters employed between 1950 and 2010.
- Study roster completed for San Francisco and Chicago Fire Departments; initiated for Philadelphia Fire Department.
- Collection of exposure information (e.g., number of fire runs by each fire company) initiated in San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia.
- Work history data collection completed for all departments.
- Health outcomes identified among firefighters included in the study.
- Study analyses completed.
- Health risk among firefighters determined.
- Results communicated to firefighters, stakeholders and the public.