Asbestos Exposure for Firefighters
In addition to risking direct injury from fire, firefighters also face the hazards of dangerous atmospheres filled with smoke and toxic substances such as asbestos. Asbestos, known for its heat-resistance, used to be a popular building and insulating material. It was commonly used in the construction of virtually every type of industrial, commercial and residential structure.
Asbestos Exposure Among 9/11 Firefighters
Firefighters who responded to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, or who participated in the clean-up efforts are at high risk for asbestos-related diseases.
The twin towers had been built with asbestos products and, as they collapsed, the asbestos fibers broke down and became airborne. Firefighters and rescue workers who spent hours at ground zero working among dust, smoke and debris that contained asbestos and other harmful particles should talk to their doctor and regularly monitor their health for asbestos-related disease symptoms.
How Firefighters Can Avoid Asbestos Exposure & Limit Secondhand Asbestos Exposure
Although firefighters often wear oxygen masks, which can help to prevent the inhalation of asbestos fibers, they are still at risk of collecting loose asbestos fibers on their clothes and gear. In order to prevent bringing asbestos dust home to their loved ones, firefighters should remove their safety gear and any other clothing or equipment, including shoes, that may contain asbestos fibers. If necessary, the clothes should then be cleaned and decontaminated. Finally, firefighters should clean themselves – taking special care to wash asbestos dust out of their hair.
There are a few other things firefighters and rescue workers can do to prevent asbestos exposure including :
- Continue to wear a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) while searching for hotspots during the overhaul stage.
- Make sure to wet any parts of the building where firefighters are working to keep the amount of asbestos fibers released into the air to a minimum.
- Wear protective equipment for any venting and entry techniques, such as opening walls.
- If possible, wash all equipment and clothing at the scene to limit the spread of toxins past the work site.
 State of Connecticut Department of Emergency Services & Public Protection