First Responders and Asbestos Disease Risk

Firefighters and other first responders can be exposed to asbestos through building debris or smoke from a fire.

One study showed that firefighters are twice as likely to develop mesothelioma than the average American.

First Responders at Risk

  • Firefighters
  • EMTs
  • 9/11 responders


How First Responders Are Exposed to Asbestos

Houses were commonly built with asbestos during most of the 20th century. When first responders arrive at an older house to help, they may be exposed to asbestos. When asbestos is disturbed it can become airborne. Asbestos can stay in the air for long periods of time. When a building collapses or catches on fire, asbestos can be released into the air. Firefighters or other first responders can breathe in these fibers while responding to emergencies. Over time, asbestos stuck in the lungs can cause mesothelioma to form.

Building Fires

Responding to a building fire is a dangerous job but on top of the obvious risks, asbestos exposure can be a serious concern. Older homes commonly contain asbestos. Any asbestos materials that burn in a fire could release that asbestos into the air. Anyone nearby such as firefighters and EMTs could breathe in asbestos in the smoke. When people breathe in smoke containing asbestos, they are at risk of developing asbestos related diseases, like mesothelioma.

Building Collapses

Asbestos can also be released in large quantities when a building collapses. Any time a building collapses unexpectedly, there is a chance that asbestos has been released into the air in the dust and debris. In these cases, there are often emergency personnel on the scene to help control the situation and help the people who are nearby.