By Tony Stefani
On behalf of the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation, I would like to thank all active and retired firefighters who have contributed to our Foundation over the last year. It is because of all of you that we are able to continue to provide medically approved screenings for the early detection of various forms of cancer and continue toward reducing the risk of exposures on the job. Once again we would like to thank Tom Abbott and the South End Rowing Club and their crew for putting together the Alcatraz Swim fundraiser. Our Board is happy to report that we will be a major part of the event in 2012. Get ready open water swimmers!….. A very special thank you goes out to the United Fire Service Women’s association within our Department. They voted to donate 75% of their t-shirt sales to our Foundation, amounting to over $13,000. Many thanks to all of you!
We have two projects that we are working on for 2012. First, we will offer a screening for colorectal cancer. We are currently in negotiations with the Clinical Labs-Immunology at UCSF Medical Center for analysis of the tests. This type of screening should be a part of every firefighters (active and retired) yearly check-up with their physician. Colon cancer caught in its early stages is highly curable. If you have not been screened in the last year, please take advantage of this offered screening.
Second, we will be taking another step toward reducing firefighter exposures at working fires and during the overhaul process. With the Administration’s approval, our Department, in conjunction with environmental health scientists from the School of Public Health at the University of California Berkeley, will conduct a study that will work toward this goal. This study comes none to soon….
Many of you might remember that in the Fall of 2009 we collected blood samples from 12 firefighters after two separate working fires. The blood serum samples were sent to the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, State University New York, for analysis. The samples were analyzed for serum levels of toxic flame retardants as well as other halogenated chemicals including polychlorinated biphenyls, hexachlorobenzene, polyfluorinated compounds and bisphenol-A. We have received the statistical analysis of data from the Marine Environmental Research Institute. Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE’s) were found in all serum samples. Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers are organobromine compounds that are used as flame retardants. Like other brominated flame retardants, PBDE’s have been used in a wide array of products, including building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles, airplanes, plastics, polyurethane foams and textiles. One particular PBDE was found in high levels in 76% of the firefighters’ samples. The study states, “this unusual congener profile of the firefighters may be a result of their occupational exposures to burning upholstery, carpets and furniture.” This was a small cohort of only 12 firefighters but it shows the need for a much broader study. Our Foundation will definitely seek to put in place such a study that will invite all active firefighters to become a part of.
As promised we have formulated an “all in one” method of reporting a workers comp cancer claim for active and retired firefighters who fit the time profile. We met with Priscilla Morse from Workers Compensation and put together all reports necessary to expedite a cancer claim as well as a list of accepted chemical carcinogens that firefighters are exposed to at working fires. The list will be used to help document exposures in a cancer claim. As of this writing we are waiting for the Chief’s approval to put this in place.
In February we should be getting an update from N.I.O.S.H. and their on-going study looking into causes of death to our firefighters dating back to 1950 with a main emphasis on deaths caused by cancer.
This year we will also overhaul our website. We are thankful to Board member Kate Noerr and her company, Muse Global, for hosting our site over the last year or so. We hope our new site will be more informative and in line with Local 798′s website.
My best to all of you,