SUGARCREEK TWP., Ohio (WDTN) – Jim Burneka is hoping that by spreading awareness, he can help prevent the spread of firefighter occupational cancer.
Some studies suggest firefighters have a 54 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than the average person.
Burneka, a Dayton firefighter and specialist at Firefighter Cancer Consultants, said, “It was almost taboo to talk about it. But now it’s out there, the numbers are there. We know how significant of a threat it really is.”
He personally knows several people affected by the disease as a result of exposure during their careers.
“Our fire gear does a great job of protecting us from fires, but it doesn’t protect us from all of these chemicals and carcinogens,” Burneka explained.
He created Firefighter Cancer Consultants to bring awareness of the risks and share prevention tactics to fire departments around the country.
Thursday, the consultant addressed a small group at the Sugarcreek Township Fire Department. He gave statistics, explained where cancer-causing toxins originate and demonstrated practices for decontamination.
Sugarcreek Township Fire Captain Josh Johnson said the small department has many young firefighters, and he hoped the training will stick in their minds.
“Anything we can do now at the beginning of your career, to cut down that risk and that exposure, is really what we’re trying to do,” Captain Johnson said.
A growing number of departments and state governments are recognizing the legitimacy of the risks.
A new Ohio law allows current or former firefighters diagnosed with cancer to collect workers compensation for the disease.
Burneka said his goal is to prepare crews and prevent hazards to minimize the impact of the occupational hazard.
“What we’re doing today is going to impact us later on in life,” he said.
To learn more about Firefighter Cancer Consultants, the risks for occupational cancer and its prevention, click here.