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Firefighters far more likely to die from cancer and heart attacks than public

A new study commissioned by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and independently carried out by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), has found that Firefighters' mortality rate from all cancers is 1.6 times higher than the general population. The same study also revealed that Firefighters are dying from heart attack at 5 times the rate of the general public and almost at 3 times the rate from a stroke.

The study, led by UCLan's Professor Anna Stec, was carried out by obtaining mortality records from the National Records of Scotland, although the results are relevant to the United Kingdom as a whole due to the same conditions faced by Firefighters in Scotland and the rest of the UK, with operational procedures consistent across the whole of the country.

The research also shows the mortality rates for certain types of cancer are significantly higher in Firefighters, including:-

Prostate - 3.8 times higher

Leukaemia - 3.17 times higher

Oesophageal - 2.42 times higher

In instances where cancer with an unknown origin has spread, the rate was 6.37 times higher than the general population.

The excess cancer mortality observed in Scottish Firefighters for several types of cancer are likely linked to different kinds of exposures, and/or fire toxins. For example, cancers of the oesophagus and digestive organs point to at a potentially significant contribution from ingestion, which may occur when Firefighters swallow mucus in which fire effluent has become trapped, or if they have eaten food with contaminated hands. Meanwhile, mortality rates from leukaemia cancer are linked to exposure to other chemicals such as benzene from contact with skin or inhalation.

The study concludes that health monitoring for Firefighters; reducing their exposures from contaminants at their workplace; and financial and medical support for those already affected are urgently needed.

Riccardo la Torre, Fire Brigades Union national officer, said:- "We already knew that fire contaminants were very likely causing cancer and other diseases in Firefighters. Now, we have evidence that cements that belief and also shows that contaminants can impact their mental health. No firefighter should suffer unnecessarily and there is much more that fire services can be doing to reduce exposure to fire contaminants. We demand to see more action on prevention, health monitoring, and facilities and contracts for proper PPE and workwear cleaning. Ministers and Fire Bosses can no longer bury their heads in the sand on this life and death matter. It is of absolute urgency that they act and this research only reinforces that point. These are independent, statistically significant, peer reviewed findings that are specific to the UK. I'm proud that the Fire Brigades Union commissioned this project to properly address such an important issue. The evidence is now undeniable and the days of hearing that we are behind other countries on this matter must surely end. We must act now to make firefighting a safer profession. This is an occupational hazard and no 1 should get ill, or worse, just for going to work. It's important we learn and make the improvements in memory of every firefighter we have ever lost to these terrible diseases."

Professor Anna Stec, Professor in Fire Chemistry and Toxicity at UCLan, said:- "This is the first study of its kind in UK and the research brings to light the wide range of occupational hazards that Firefighters face. It's important that Firefighters can continue to do their jobs as safely as possible, and the research shows that measures such as health monitoring and reducing exposure from contaminants at the workplace will play an important part in protecting Firefighters."

The issue has also been raised in the Scottish Parliament, with Maggie Chapman MSP bringing a motion to Parliament and both Chapman and Pauline McNeill MSP raising the issue at First Minister's Questions.

HS2 partners with Build UK to open its construction sites to young people

HS2 has partnered with Build UK, the leading representative organisation for the UK construction industry, to support the:- 'Open Doors 2023' programme, running from:- Monday, 13 March to Saturday, 18 March 2023.

Open Doors takes young people, and those looking for a change of career, behind the site hoardings to experience construction 1st hand. HS2 is offering opportunities to explore its sites between London and the West Midlands, including:- the Chilterns Tunnel south portal, Curzon Street Station, Old Oak Common Station, Wendover Dean Viaduct and Willesden Logistics Hub.

HS2's construction partners providing the site visits include:- Align (formed of Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine, and VolkerFitzpatrick), BBV (Balfour Beatty VINCI), BBVS (Balfour Beatty VINCI SYSTRA), EKFB (Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial Construction and BAM Nuttall) and SCS (Skanska, Costain and STRABAG).

Rebecca Young, HS2's Skills and Employment Supply Chain Manager said:- "We're delighted to partner with Build UK to give young people, across the country, the chance to see how we're building Britain's new railway. For those interested in a career in construction, this is a great opportunity to meet the people building our new stations, viaducts and tunnels. With over 900 apprentices already on board and plans to recruit hundreds more in the months and years ahead, we hope to inspire the next generation to play a part in future phases of HS2."

Suzannah Nichol MBE, Build UK's Chief Executive, said:- "Open Doors is run for the industry, by Build UK, and aims to recruit the next generation by showing them what goes on behind the site hoardings. We are delighted to be partnering with HS2, which is opening 16 fantastic sites across the country, including:- tunnels, viaducts, stations and training Centres. This variety is what Open Doors is all about and will show visitors just how many opportunities and interesting careers there are in construction."

In November 2022, HS2 hosted Build UK on its Long Itchington Wood Tunnel North Portal Site near Leamington Spa to launch:- 'Open Doors 2023,' attended by over 25 young people from Walsall and Warwickshire Colleges. This is also 1 of the sites opening its doors during the week long programme in March.

The events will give visitors a unique insight into a career in construction and an introduction to the fantastic range of opportunities available in the sector. In addition to familiar site based construction roles, many of the positions available are based externally, with companies requiring a back office support network, front of house sales teams, and cutting edge technical roles.

Highlighting some the opportunities on offer this summer, Emmanuel Rossignol, EKFB's Programme Director, said:- "From learning more about our carbon saving viaducts, environment projects and construction achievements to date, but also the jobs, apprenticeships and community outreach opportunities we are offering this year; there is something for everyone. This includes a visit to 1 of our many ecology sites that forms part of HS2's green corridor, the opportunity to have a go at virtually driving a piece of heavy machinery in 1 of our plants simulators and taking a mini-bus tour of 1 of our live sites to see the works taking place, amongst much more. We're looking forward to welcoming guests to our construction sites across Bucks and Northants this March."

Events will run throughout the week across sites spanning the length of the HS2 Phase 1 route including:-


Long Itchington North Portal.

Old Oak Common.

Chilterns South Portal Site.


Cappers Lane.

Willesden Logistics Hub.

Old Oak Common.

Flannery Skills Hub.

Wendover Dean Viaduct.

West Street Compound.


Curzon Street.

A46 Compound.

Willesden Logistics Hub.

Old Oak Common.

Flannery Skills Hub.

Wendover Dean Viaduct.

West Street Compound.


Old Oak Common.

ELITE training.

Flannery Skills Hub.

Wendover Dean Viaduct.

West Street Compound.

Chilterns South Portal Site.


Old Oak Common.

If you are interested in finding out more about the construction industry and what it has to offer you can book your place at:- Opendoors.Construction.

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