Delta Township Fire Department work to protect firefighters from cancer

“He felt fine, he had no indications he was sick at all”
To prevent more cases, the Delta Township Fire Department is making big changes.
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 6:31 PM EST
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DELTA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WILX) - Fire Chief Gregg Ginebaugh said work-related cancer is something they see far too often.

“I know a couple dozen other firefighters that are working through their cancer right now that are active duty, and some that are retired,” Ginebaugh said.

The Delta Township fire chief has even experienced work-related cancer himself. He said the build-up of dangerous contaminants on the inside of his mask gave him skin cancer.

“They happened to spot it, and cut out a pretty good piece to make sure that it didn’t spread,” said Ginebaugh.

He said firefighters’ risk of developing cancer is high, so the Delta Township Fire Department is trying to change that. This year, decontamination is their new focus.

“It’s night and day compared to even 10-15 years ago,” said Ginebaugh.

They just purchased a new decontamination machine. The machine prevents the build-up of carcinogens and other cancer-causing agents like Ginebaugh experienced with his face mask.

“So really getting that stuff clean and getting that stuff away from people is the best solution,” said Ginebaugh.

Even after the carcinogens are cleaned off, there’s still the threat of PFAS, a cancer-causing substance used in fighting fires. Delta Firefighters are taking part in PFAS health screenings. They’re also working on mental health.

John Kahler, Assistant Fire Chief Delta Township:

“You know you got exposed to something, so it starts to wear on you,” said assistant fire chief John Kahler. “It accumulates.”

Kahler used to work at the Detroit Metro Airport, and said they were exposed to PFAS all the time.

“The guy at my previous job, who we discovered had Lymphoma, he felt fine, he had no indications he was sick at all,” Kahler said.

As scary as cancer is, both men said they’re excited to get their PFAS screenings back. They’ve never had the chance to get tested before, and want to know where their risk level lies.

The Delta Fire Department also got brand new breathing devices, that can be washed and decontaminated. They’ll be donating their old devices to local schools for training purposes.

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