Arguably the most influential firefighters associations announced its support for an asbestos ban in the United States.

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) expressed the need for a ban by supporting the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act, which is legislature proposed to both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. This legislature has been considered by both branches of U.S. Congress for several years.

IAFF announced its support in a press release on the organization’s website. Asbestos is a carcinogen capable of causing a rare cancer called mesothelioma, along with lung cancer, ovarian cancer and more. Firefighters are one of the at-risk occupations for asbestos exposure and have a heightened risk of developing asbestos diseases.

“Firefighters are regularly exposed to airborne asbestos fibers as they respond to fires and other hazardous situations, making them 200 times more likely to develop related illnesses than the general public,” said Greg Russell, the IAFF Governmental Affairs Representative. “Occupational cancers have become the leading cause of death among firefighters, and as a response, this union is fully committed to addressing this life-threatening issue head-on.”

IAFF represents more than 339,000 professional firefighters and paramedics in the U.S. and Canada. The association is an advocacy group for firefighters and a lobbying organization to advance benefits for its members.

 

How Firefighters Are Exposed to Asbestos

Firefighters are at risk of asbestos exposure from responding to fires in old buildings, such as warehouses, plants and more. If these buildings were constructed prior to the 1980s, then they likely contain asbestos as an insulant. Asbestos was a popular insulant material during the 20th century up until the 1980s.

Asbestos is not dangerous when intact, but fires can disturb asbestos and damage the floor tiles, ceiling tiles, joint compounds and roof tiles. This damage can release asbestos fibers into the air. As firefighters respond to fires, they can inhale or swallow these loose fibers.

Asbestos could be found near or in:

  • Roofing and siding
  • Electrical wiring, switches and panels
  • Insulation in walls and ceilings
  • Drywall joint compound
  • Floor and ceiling tiles
  • Caulking
  • Paint

Another source of asbestos exposure for firefighters was the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Hundreds of tons of asbestos were used to build one of the World Trade Center towers. When the towers fell, asbestos was disturbed and released into the Manhattan air.

 

Pushing for a Ban on Asbestos

More than 70 countries have banned asbestos, but the United States is not one of them. The U.S. has heavy regulations on the use of asbestos, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking steps to tighten those regulations even further.

The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act would immediately ban the import, use, and sale of asbestos and require industries to transition away from asbestos within a certain amount of time. The majority of asbestos imported into the U.S. is for the chlor-alkali industry.

 

Sources & Author

International Association of Fire Fighters. Retrieved from: https://www.iaff.org/news/iaff-supports-a-nationwide-asbestos-ban/. Accessed: 08/17/2023.

Devin Golden

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is a content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.

    Sources & Author

Devin Golden

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is a content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.