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Thread: Firefighter Training, Cancer Link to Be Studied

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    Firefighter Training, Cancer Link to Be Studied

    Updated: 08-02-2004 10:01:19 AM

    Firefighter Training, Cancer Link to Be Studied



    Associated Press

    BALTIMORE (AP) -- Anne Arundel County fire officials and union representatives will meet Wednesday with John Hopkins University doctors to initiate a study over the potential connection between firefighters training and cancer, officials said.

    Working with a Gaithersburg attorney, former firefighter David Fowler and dozens of other current and former firefighters are trying to establish links between the apparent cluster of cancers and the burning of carcinogenic fuel during training in the 1970s and early 1980s.

    Arundel firefighters, many of whom are in hospitals or have died of cancer, trace their concerns to the department's use of donated fuels during routine training in Millersville decades ago. Some contained chemicals called PCBs that were banned by the federal government as possible carcinogens.

    Fowler said that when he was found to have non-Hodgkins lymphoma seven years ago, he wondered how a healthy man in his 40s could be struck so suddenly - and thought back to training in the 1970s.

    He and others have described a facility where young firefighters charged into smoke-filled structures without breathing masks, determined to see who could keep his wits the longest without the use of oxygen.

    Two families, including the Fowlers, have won workers' compensation cases, and attorney Kenneth Berman is exploring options for a larger-scale lawsuit.

    ``There are so many,'' said Fowler, 50, lying on a hospital bed on the first floor of his Pasadena home, as he ticked off the names of dead and dying comrades to The (Baltimore) Sun. ``And if you go back, we all trained at the camp, and we all got sick.''

    Concern is widespread enough that county and state officials have contracted with a Hopkins epidemiologist.

    Last weekend, one of the firefighters, Warren T. Daywalt of Annapolis, died of a brain tumor at age 52. Daywalt had been working with Berman, the attorney.

    The link between disease clusters and working conditions is a complex and emotional issue that has gained national attention. Class action lawsuits related to chemicals such as benzene and vinyl chloride have inspired powerful counterattacks from businesses, which argue they're being blamed unfairly and choked by liability costs.

    ``We're in a very murky area where there are so many unknowns,'' said County Executive Janet S. Owens. ``But it's very sad.''

    Studies of fire departments, including those in Chicago and Seattle, have shown that firefighters face elevated cancer risks, but few, if any, have been able to link those risks to specific practices.

    Doctors generally are more comfortable attributing the illnesses to regular contact with toxic smoke and other dangerous substances.

    Roger Simonds, an instructor at the academy in those years who went on to become fire chief, said his mentors in Millersville almost never donned self-contained breathing aids.

    Even experts are divided.

    ``I would back away from trying to map cancers to specific one-time exposures,'' said Dr. Melissa McDiarmid, a University of Maryland professor of medicine who serves as a consultant for the International Association of Firefighters. ``Certainly, it could be a contributing factor, though.''

    Jonathan Samet, the Hopkins epidemiologist who will supervise the study, has said it will be difficult to establish a scientific relationship between sick firefighters and specific working conditions.

    Without such evidence, liability lawsuits could be frivolous.

    ``They should have real solid evidence that there's a link before moving forward with any legal action,'' said Gretchen Schaefer, spokeswoman for the American Tort Reform Association, a Washington-based nonprofit group that works to limit class action and other damage suits.


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=10&id=33524

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    Question�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� searching for an expert

    I'm attempting to contact Dr Melissa McDiarmid but an internet search of the U of M doesn't turn up anything. Anyone have contact inofrmation ofr the doctor? Thank you.

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    try this link


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