Harvard researchers examine firehouse cancer threat

Monday, August 14, 2017 - 14:42 in Health & Medicine

Harvard researchers have teamed up with local fire departments to tackle a health care mystery: How does the firehouse itself increase cancer risk among firefighters? Led by postdoctoral fellow Emily Sparer, researchers including students from Harvard and MIT tested air quality in three older Boston firehouses and examined the results against air quality in a newer Arlington station, renovated roughly a decade ago to minimize transfer of pollutants from the truck bay to living quarters. Compared with conditions inside a burning building, firehouses may seem benign places. But because firefighters spend so much time in the firehouse, even low-level exposure might be hazardous, said Professor Glorian Sorensen, director of the Harvard Chan School’s Center for Work, Health, and Well-Being and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Center for Community-Based Research, who has overseen the research. Diesel exhaust, for example, is a carcinogen, and in older firehouses — Boston’s date from the 1800s to 1980s — the...

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