Every time a firefighter is exposed to smoke and toxins, carcinogens can be absorbed through the skin, increasing their risk of cancer.
The best defense is cleaning the soot off right away.
“You can just wipe them across the forehead, making sure we’re getting behind the ears and around the jawline,” demonstrated Nancy Peters of the Kansas Firefighters Alliance. “Those are the areas our mask doesn’t cover.”
Peters and the KFA are providing free decontamination wipes to fire departments that don’t have them, or, like Mulvane, are using ones that are not approved by the FDA.
“There are chemicals in a lot of them that aren’t going to be great for firefighters’ skin,” said Peters.
The aloe in the FDA-approved decon wipes helps lower the temperature of the firefighters’ skin after a fire and slow the rate of absorption.
“I’ve had cancer twice in the last 10 years, and nobody wants to go through that,” said Captain Lowell Ester, Mulvane Fire Department.
Now, being able to stock the fire engines with free wipes, he says, is a big help, especially for small departments that rely on volunteers.
“Budgets are strained, and they really need the money to buy the fire resources, and a lot of times our safety is skipped and overlooked,” said Ester.
The Kansas Firefighters Alliance pays for the wipes through sale of its yearly calendar that focuses on health and fitness.
Firefighters have until May 1 to apply to be in the calendar. A judging contest on June 7 will pick the winning contestants.
The firefighters chosen will appear at events all across Kansas to help spread the word about how to fight cancer.
GALLERY | Kansas Firefighter Calendar