This study was set up to investigate the effect of exposure to combustion effluents on the chronic health of firefighters. A cohort of firefighters was followed up through 10 years with regard to cause specific mortality. Comparisons were made with another cohort of civil servants and salaried employees in physically demanding jobs. After a latency of five years, an excess mortality from cancer was seen for persons aged 30 to 74 (standardised mortality ratio (SMR) 173, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 104-270). A significant increase in lung cancer was seen in the group aged 60 to 74 (SMR 317, 95% CI 117-691), whereas non-pulmonary cancer was significantly increased in the group aged 30 to 49 (SMR 575, 95% CI 187-1341). It is concluded that inhalation of carcinogenic and toxic compounds during firefighting may constitute an occupational cancer risk. An extended use of respiratory protective equipment is advocated.
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