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San Francisco Firefighters Battle Dangers of Carcinogen Exposure

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San Francisco Nob Hill apartment fire

A firefighter observes flames coming out of an apartment building in San Francisco, 2010. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — The 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City’s Twin Towers had a profound impact on firefighters everywhere, but a Bay Area non-profit is using the 10-year anniversary to bring attention to the ongoing risk for firefighters across the country.

Tony Stefani is a former San Francisco Fire Department captain and cancer survivor. Several years ago, Stefani founded San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation, aiming to reduce firefighter’s exposure to cancer causing agents.

KCBS’ Jeff Bell Reports:

“It brought a big awareness to the industry, in particular of what actually occurs during the overhaul process,” he said.

Stefani claimed a lot has been learned in the aftermath of 9/11, and the process in which firefighters comb through a burned area, often exposes them to cancer causing agents.

“These chemicals and toxins that we come into contact with have a lot to do with the off gassing of plastic polymers,” Stefani said. He added It’s a problem that surfaces in day to day firefighting situations.

“In a kitchen for instance, the face of the refrigerator could be completely melted, the telephone deformed, and plastic bowls in the sink could be melted,” said Stefani.

While still fairly new, the group has already purchased five high-tech uniform washing machines for the SF Fire Department.

According to the retired fire captain, they are specially designed to remove the toxins and carcinogens that firefighters come into contact with during the overhaul process.

Stefani’s foundation also provides early detection screening and fosters research.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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