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Oct. 21, 2021 | Thursday
Local News
NOTL firefighters launch safety measures to limit exposure to cancer-causing contaminants
Tony Sapielak with Ken Hernder during Coffee with a Firefighter on at McDonald's on Monday. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

Niagara-on-the-Lake firefighters are working to limit their own exposure to cancer-causing contaminants by adopting a new program to decontaminate themselves and their equipment.

A growing body of research has linked firefighting-related exposures to chronic illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, the town noted in a news release about the new practice. The announcement coincides with Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 6 to 12.

Some members of the 110-member volunteer department have been diagnosed with and succumbed to cancers directly related to their work, said Town of NOTL spokesperson Lauren Kruitbosch.

“We are unable to provide specific numbers at this time,” she  said.

The Fire & Emergency Services department's new decontamination and hygiene program outlines steps for reducing firefighters' exposure, both in the field and back at the station. Using soap, water, and brushes on scene can reduce cancer-causing contamination on protective clothing and equipment by 85 per cent, the town said.

“Firefighters now have access to industrial washing machines and forced-air gear dryers. This enhancement allows for bunker gear to be cleaned and returned to service in only a couple hours,” the release said.

“Our goal is to make the decontamination and hygiene process as simple and convenient as possible,” said fire chief Nick Ruller.

“Over time we hope that the on-scene decontamination process will become a natural step, no different than hooking up to a fire hydrant.”

Throughout Fire Prevention Week, the NOTL fire department has been educating the community about fire safety and prevention measures.

On Monday, firefighters spent the morning at McDonald’s on Niagara Stone Road for Coffee with a Firefighter.