Over the years, materials used to build houses and other buildings have changed, with some of those materials containing carcinogens that firefighters and first responders inhale when responding to calls and cleaning up after the fire is out.
The result, officials say, has been higher rates of certain types of cancer and death rates for firefighters and first responders. For the first time, the NC Insurance Commissioner's Office is tracking which departments have had firefighters diagnosed with cancer and where those cases are occurring. It could give researchers and lawmakers considering occupational cancer benefits a better idea of the impact cancer is having on fire departments statewide. Recent data collected from a voluntary cancer registry run through the NC Insurance Commissioner's Office finds one western North Carolina fire department reports some of the highest cancer case numbers so far reported.