BLUE HILL, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Firefighters are exposed to dangerous levels of cancer-causing chemicals that are created when commercial flame retardants burn. But just where are these toxic chemicals coming from?
Dr. Susan Shaw says she knew firefighters have a high risk of cancer, but what she didn't know was why?
"What we are trying to do here is connect the dots what are the chemicals during a fire that the firefighters are inhaling, ingesting, getting on their skin, taking into their bodies, that may be responsible for these high rates of cancer," said Shaw.
Shaw and a team of scientists took the blood of 12 firefighters in San Francisco right after a fire event. The results, she says, were striking.
"We found very high levels of the flame retardants that are in our furniture, our carpets, our television sets, and most people think that flame retardants in these products are a good thing," said Shaw.
But Shaw says otherwise, saying that when the flame retardant burns it creates dioxins and furans. These toxic chemicals were found in the blood of some of the fire fighters, making them at risk for cancer.
"We also found high levels of these flame retardants themselves the PBDE's which are polybrominated diphenyl ethers," said Shaw.
Even after the job is done, the toxic chemicals can even be found in smoke and dust that lingers on a firefighters gear.
"We continually clean our gear particularly after a fire event but they're disallowed in the living quarters of the station we don't wear them we provide our firefighters with other clothing or other warm weather gear and coats in the likes that they don't have to wear their turn-out gear outside of a fire at all," said Bangor Fire Chief Scott Lucas.
Dr. Shaw says the next step is to go to congress.
"Our federal law does not protect americans from exposure to these chemicals and other toxic chemicals because we have a very weak federal law so some of us are trying to work with the senate and pass the safe chemicals act for example, we are trying to get more regulation of toxic chemicals in our lives," said Shaw.
"I think theres plenty of evidence that shows that it's not good for firefighters or the general public so I would have to say I would be in favor of anything that improves firefighters safety," said Lucas.
And decrease the risk of this fatal disease