New lab opening in RTP with focus on protecting firefighters from cancer-causing agents

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Whether it’s responding to crashes or running into burning homes or buildings, firefighters put their lives on the line for us every day.

Their jobs are dangerous and other than the obvious dangers, firefighters are often exposed to chemicals on the job.

A new lab in Research Triangle Park will focus on protecting those firefighters — and it opens today.

Experts say it all comes down to how a firefighter’s gear is cleaned after they fight a fire. If that gear still has toxic chemicals on it once it’s put back on, firefighters are constantly being exposed to it.

UL’s new Chemical and Biological Protection Lab will test the used gear and ultimately reduce exposure to carcinogens and other toxins. Gear that’s deemed unsafe to be returned to the field can be sent back to the lab for additional cleaning.

This is all in an effort to reduce firefighter’s exposure to cancer-causing agents.

“The biggest thing is preventing the exposure to our members so that we can hopefully lessen the instances of cancer moving forward for years to come,” said Durham Fire Department Chief Wayne Cheek.

The Durham Fire Department lost one of their firefighters to cancer back in December 2018, so this type of research has the potential to truly save lives.

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