There are a large number of studies today that review the carcinogenic hazards of firefighting. There is no question that firefighting and the higher risk of getting cancer go hand-in-hand. Washington is one of many states that understand this. It is a considered a “presumptive” state that recognizes that if a firefighter contracts cancer, it most likely was caused by the exposure to toxic chemicals such as Benzene, Hydrogen Cyanide and many other organics. It’s essential that we are aware of this fact and do what we can to reduce this risk, and if a firefighter contracts cancer what is required to get financial aid to help battle the disease.
In late 2007 the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry which is run by the CDC, correlated the connection between Benzene and cancer. As late as 2009, the League of Cities came out with statements saying there was not enough evidence to formulate an opinion. Today we know that is not true. In October of 2013 NIOSH released a study quantifying the elevated risk of cancer among firefighters (https://www.iaff.org/hs/PDF/Cancer%20Risk%20Among%20Firefighters%20-%20UC%20Study.pdf ). However it’s not only exposure to Benzene that can contribute to contracting cancer. Other organics along with heavy metals and particulates are contributing factors. Firefighters are routinely exposed to many of these combustion products during their careers.