ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla. - They are arguably among the bravest people around.
While you're running out of a building, firefighters are running in.
Battling fires is one thing - battling cancer however is a different story.
“It's the hidden dangers that do alarm us,” says Sam Eaton, a district chief with Palm Beach Fire Rescue.
Palm Beach County Fire rescue is partnering with the University of Miami, trying to ensure those dangers aren't hidden anymore.
“Firefighters are afflicted with cancer at a higher rate than the general population,” Eaton says. “Because of our exposures, because of the nature of the job.”
Eaton, who's been fighting fires for two decades, is one of hundreds participating in a first-in-the-state study.
Researchers at UM will look at the hazards he and other firefighters in South Florida face daily - studying vehicles, the firehouses, even the firefighter’s skin to find out why so many firefighters are getting cancer.
“The most important question is why is that?” says Dr. Stephen Nimer, one of the researchers involved in the study. “Is it related to the exposures that they have during fighting fires, are there other things that we can intervene in?"
Eaton says after decades of not recognizing the potential risks, many firehouses are now coming around.
Even before the study was announced, his crew was making changes - bringing in things like skin wipes so firefighters can clean as quickly as possible after a fire.
Even more changes are on the way - anything to ensure the men and women who are used to saving lives can save their own.
The earliest we'll see the results of this study is 3 years from now.
Full results may take a decade.
UM researchers are expected to visit firefighters here in Palm Beach County in the coming weeks.
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