Study finds increased risk of PTSD and cancer for firefighters

Posted at 3:36 PM, Aug 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-16 17:18:28-04

Steve Westcott is convinced his cancer was caused by his job as an Erie County firefighter.

Steve left his job after being diagnosed with leukemia.

According to a study released Tuesday by the International Association of Firefighters, he's not alone.

The study found firefighters have a 14% increased chance of dying from cancer than the general population.

Firefighters inhale diesel exhaust from fire trucks which contains the cancer-causing chemical benzene.

Benzene is also released when plastics burn in a fire.

The study also concluded that repeatedly witnessing tragedy like deadly car crashes and fires takes an emotional toll.

The study estimates 20% of firefighters and paramedics suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome compared to 3% of the general population..

"For the longest time we never wanted to address it because 98% of firefighters said there was a stigma of seeking behavioral health and counseling. We're starting to change our ways. We now realize we need to talk about it. We need to go get help. We need to let this off our chest, so this doesn't build up," Westcott said.

Ohio Senate Bill 27 is being considered by state lawmakers.

It would help cover costs for firefighters diagnosed with cancer.