TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The University of Arizona and the Tucson Fire Department are teaming up to tackle the second leading cause of death among firefighters.
"Firefighters have a higher rate of cancer compared to the general public. Even though they're wearing protective gear, it's imperfect," said Dr. Wayne Peate, president of Well America.
Researchers at the UA will track new TFD firefighters for three years to learn more about what chemicals play a part in causing cancer among first responders.
Researchers will take blood and urine samples from firefighters after they finish working at a scene.
Peate said this study is especially important now because fires today aren't the same as they were 40 or 50 years ago.
The synthetic materials used in everyday items in homes could release harmful chemicals in the event of a fire.
"Now if you look at a modern office or home we see all sorts of things; plastics, foam. When you add heat to all those mixed chemicals and materials, you create substances that have never even been measured before. So modern fires are more dangerous," Peate said.
"We don't have any control over that. So how can we more forward - still fight fires, still save lives and property, but take care of ourselves as well?" said Barrett Baker, spokesperson for the Tucson Fire Department.
Peate said this study will not only benefit firefighters in Tucson, but all those who are exposed to possible harmful chemicals and substances.
The study will be paid for with a $1.5 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.