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Research confirms firefighters exposed to high levels of toxic chemicals

A Napa County firefighter sprays water on a home as he battles flames from a wildfire on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in California. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

New research has confirmed what firefighters have long suspected. Exposure to flames and smoke leaves them with high levels of toxic chemicals in their bodies.

A University of Ottawa researcher studied firefighters in the city at the start of their shift and after they returned from a call.

Jules Blais found levels of a chemical known to cause cancer and genetic damage were, on average, three to five times higher.  Blais says the exposure seems to come mostly through the skin.

READ MORE: Union says Fort McMurray wildfire will shorten lives of firefighters 

His study also looked at the potential for chemicals in the urine to cause genetic damage.

That average was also about four times higher after an action-packed shift.

READ MORE: ‘We expected cancer’: Are industrial spills in Canada’s ‘Chemical Valley’ making people sick? 

He says the research should help fire departments come up with better ways to protect firefighters from contaminants.

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Previous long-term studies of firefighters have shown they are prone to some diseases.

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