Firefighters risking their lives to save others are learning more about a hidden risk on the job: coming in contact with cancer-causing materials.
One local volunteer fire department has taken to crowdfunding in order to buy protective gear for its firefighters.
The concern for the Town of Sheboygan Falls Volunteer Fire Department is that firefighters are often wearing their protective hoods over and over, and their hoods likely absorb the chemicals that cause cancer.
Ryan Silva joined the Town of Sheboygan Falls Volunteer Fire Department about two months ago and says he quickly learned about the risks they face on the job.
"The biggest concern is the synthetic chemicals that are in houses these days," he said. "Everything...that can potentially have carcinogens in the smoke."
He says those chemicals cling to their hoods and come in direct contact with their skin. Depending on call volume, it could be a long time before they get thrown in the wash.
"I just wanted to do something to help contribute," he said.
He started a Gofundme page hoping to raise a little more than $1,200 so the department can buy a spare set of hoods. That way if they go on multiple calls, they can switch out hoods and limit their risk of exposure.
According to a study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, firefighters on average have a higher risk for certain types of cancer, including digestive, oral, respiratory and urinary.
Their chances of lung cancer and leukemia also increase depending on the number of fire calls they respond to and the amount of time they spend there.
The Sheboygan Falls Fire Chief says at the end of the year, they usually don't have enough money in their budget for new equipment.
"You know we’re volunteers, so none of these guys get paid for what they’re doing," said Chief Bob Kroeplien. "So we try to provide them with good equipment and obviously safe equipment. Wearing a dirty hood is not safe."
The chief says spare hoods are becoming a trend in firefighting. Several departments he's spoken to are also working toward obtaining a spare set.
To contribute to their GoFundMe, click here.