I am pleased to share that we have begun to receive some "traffic" to our Blog page and comments, as well. Today, I am honored to welcome a guest message from LW
I must confess that I'm not a firefighter. I've been doing extensive research on firefighter mental health and suicidal deaths. I am both shocked and disturbed by the lack of preventative, in-house support programs for our country’s firefighters/EMS in all (or most) fire stations across our nation, especially since 9/11.
It would help tremendously if fire chiefs and others with the power to implement top down changes in the fire service would recognize that the mental and emotional health and well-being of their firefighters/EMS is no less important than protecting their physical life.
We simply can't afford to lose the lives of our fire and medical first responders to PTSD, permanent disability and suicidal deaths when it's preventable most of the time. The cost of saving a firefighter's/EMS life pales in comparison to the cost of saving his/her life. You can hire and train a new firefighter, but you cannot replace the collective experience of the firehouse that often spans numerous years and the camaraderie that existed between them. Plus suicidal death of one brother puts surviving brothers/sisters at a much higher statistically significant risk for dying by suicide themselves.
I'm working on a website to help support our heroes and I appreciate the content you've provided on yours. Even though I'm not associated with the fire service, I hope that you’ll still send me your newsletters. I've subscribed to other firefighter/EMS websites to become more aware and stay informed and would enjoy receiving your newsletters, too.😀
Thank you for your previous service as a firefighter and EMT. It's not the kind of job for everyone but everyone who provides (or has provided) such public service is a hero in my book! 😄
The above title comes from a song from the music group, The Association, who were consistently topping the charts in the late 1960's and early 1970's. In spite of its age, it certainly rings true today.
As I am writing this entry, word has come that Prince Charles has been diagnosed with Covid-19. If one thing is clear, Covid-19 does not discriminate based on skin color, faith, beliefs, etc. ANYONE can get it. It has nothing to do with most of the currently attributable social stigmas that we usually assign to certain social classes and practices. Anyone and everyone can be infected - unless....and only unless, they....WE ACTIVE PROTECT OURSELVES!
Almost every country in the world, and every state in the U.S., has very clear instructions to its citizens, providing best practices to help you avoid the contagion. Therefore, while I won't list them all here, (You can find those for the State of FL here. However, I'll review a few of the recommendations and why they are so important.
#1. Proper Personal Sanitation - While thousands of people ran out to stores and are hoarding ten years of toilet paper, paper towels and hand sanitizer, (which most stores will not refund and which almost every state has promised to prosecute should they attempt to sell it at prices approximately ten percent above published shelf costs), they all "missed the boat."
The single most important preventive practice is frequent and proper washing of our hands. While hand sanitizer can help, we are told that best practice is to wash our hands, frequently, using any soap, as long as you wash for a minimum of twenty seconds! How "long" is twenty seconds without a clock or watch? Sing either "Happy Birthday" twice, or recite the childhood melody for the recitation of the alphabet, a a moderate pace. (My personal favorite!) ;-)
Some are of the mind that the soap must be an "antibacterial," but in this case, we're not fighting a bacterial germ, we're fighting a viral (virus) infection. Over the last near 100 years, we have learned that there is a big difference between the two. And that is why, a good hand-washing with any liquid or bar soap, for the recommended time frame, will indeed remove the contagion from your hands.
#2. Proper sanitation - Besides keeping you hands well-washed, keep everything you use on a daily basis sanitized as well. For this, use the various brands of antibacterial/anti-viral wipes, e.g. Lysol Wipes, Clorox Wipes, or any wipes that lists a 99.9% effectiveness on surfaces. Remember to wipe down your utensils (those you don't usually place in a dishwasher), the light switches, surfaces, door handles, and any other place that you touch frequently.
For packages that are delivered to you, it can't hurt to where a pair of disposable gloves to bring them into your home and while opening them. Same is true for any other item for which you might be unsure of its point of origin. And that includes yourself as well! If you have to go out to shop, it's a good idea to wear gloves while doing so and remove them prior to either entering your car or your home.
#3. Social distancing - What is the definition of "social distancing?" It's been defined as staying away from crowds of more than 5-10 people, in one paper. Another says less than 25. Who's right and who's wrong? Who care!!! If this was an epidemic of "Bird Flu" or a severe strain of the "regular" flu, would you go into a crowd of strangers? Would you get on a bus, street car or subway train, with people sneezing, coughing, dripping noses, etc.? I doubt it! But in those instances, you know that someone is ill. You'd still go shopping, but you'd give that person a "wide berth."
With the novel coronavirus, we don't know who may be infected and who is not. So, in this reality, just how important is that dinner at your favorite sushi restaurant? Or going to that music contest with 10,000 others in the audience?
Let's look at the situation in New York City - a city that absolutely runs on its phenomenal public transportation system? On any normal day, none of us would think twice of using the buses or subways. But today, when there is no way for us to know who is infected and who is not? I'll let you answer that question for yourself.
In times like these, people often turn to their faith to help them through these difficult times. And I'm one of them. Our synagogue has stopped all services and we have moved to "virtual" or cyber-services. However, both in the U.S. and in Israel, there are ultra-Orthodox Jews who refuse to shelter in place. They continue to study together, celebrate Bar/Bat Mitzvah with lavish and crowded receptions and continue to study in large groups. When questioned by a reporter, the answer was, "We are doing G-d's work, by studying and celebrating His word. We'll be fine."
I maintain a strong faith in G-d, but part of my learning years ago was that we/humans are not "puppets." The Lord does not pull our strings to tell us to go shopping or to wash our face. One of the greatest gives we received was, "free will." No matter our belief system, we can maintain a strong relationship with G-d and go grab something to eat when we're hungry or sit and listen to a symphony. And it is sad to have to say that in those areas in U.S. and Israel where this is occurring, the virus is running rampant.
Most of all, this is a time for common sense. No one wants to become infected. No one wants to lose a loving member of a family. But since the vast majority of us are not doctors, especially epidemiologists, we need to follow their best recommendations to keep ourselves safe.
PLEASE.....PLEASE....PLEASE..... Be Sensible, Be Smart, Be Healthy!
GUEST BLOG POST BY ANDREW DEVINE
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have teamed up to study the causal relationship between firefighting and diseases such as mesothelioma. The study found that firefighters have a substantially higher risk of developing mesothelioma than the general population.
Firefighters are a group of people that have one of the more notable risks for developing mesothelioma. These risks aren’t hard to imagine when considering the amount of debris and toxins released into the air when an older building burns down.
The smoke and dust generated from these fires are likely to contain unsafe levels of asbestos. When structures are on fire and when they collapse, asbestos fibers present in the structure become airborne.
There are also unforeseen risks that firefighters serving prior to the 1970s may have incurred. Such a risk is the use of asbestos in the protective materials worn by firefighters prior to this period. Since the risks of asbestos were not widely known, it seemed logical at the time to manufacture helmets, coats and pants with fire-resistant asbestos.
While firefighters today have protective equipment, such as masks and respirators, it is not always a requirement for them to use the equipment. This obviously puts firefighters at risk of exposure if asbestos is present.
Background of the Study
The idea behind the study was to create a more conclusive understanding of the occupational risks of firefighting and developing cancer. By increasing the amount of participants in the study, researchers hope to back up previous studies with a more scientifically significant analysis.
The study consisted of nearly 30,000 career firefighters who served between 1950 and 2009 in San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia.
While the research does not consider factors such as smoking, personal health and consumption of alcohol, they did determine that firefighters are twice as likely to develop mesothelioma compared to the general population.
This was the first study ever to identify higher rates of mesothelioma among firefighters in the United States. It also found that firefighters have a higher rates of developing several other types of cancer.
The study is projected to have a second phase in which researchers will look at the occupational history of the firefighters in this study to gain more specific information about the relationship of firefighting and the development of cancers like mesothelioma.
9/11: A Recent Example of Asbestos Risks for Firefighters
One of the most infamous asbestos exposure risks for firefighters were those who served at Ground Zero on 9/11. The lower floors of the Twin Towers were coated in tons (estimated between 400 and 1,000 tons) of asbestos that was released into the air when the buildings collapsed.
The dust cloud resulting from the collapse swamped lower Manhattan, engulfing skyscrapers and people. Those without respirators were sure to inhale the toxic dust.
A study released a year after 9/11 by the American Thoracic Society highlighted the risks associated with asbestos exposure for firefighters at Ground Zero.
Although the study wasn’t speculative about firefighters developing mesothelioma in the future, it determined there was a significant amount of asbestos released in the air after the collapse.
The study did, however, determine that firefighters at Ground Zero had immediate respiratory side effects, including pleural effusions and pleural thickening. These are serious symptoms, which illuminate the risks firefighters must face.
There isn’t any event comparable in magnitude that posed risks to firefighters quite like 9/11. However, it does go to show that firefighters responding to calls involving buildings containing asbestos face an inevitable risk of being exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos.
Why Is This Study Important?
The study released by the USFA and NIOSH is important for many reasons, but one reason stands out in relation to mesothelioma: awareness. Knowing that firefighters have two times the risk of developing mesothelioma than the average American is powerful information.
This is information that can be used to help protect firefighters from unseen, airborne risks such as asbestos. It may also encourage firefighters who are tempted to remove their respirators to protect themselves.
Many people are still unaware of the potential threat of asbestos exposure. The toxic fibers are regulated in the U.S., but they still aren’t banned. Firefighters, especially, need to be aware of these risks.
About the Writer, Andrew Devine
Andrew Devine is a contributing writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He has developed an interest in educating patients and their families on everything from new treatments to what to expect after diagnosis.
Steve Greene is the president of 5-Alarm Task Force Corp., a 501 (c) (3), non-profit company and the Creator/Host of the "5-Alarm Task Force" podcast.