Lakeland firefighters get new cancer-fighting gear

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Smoke and flames are the most obvious danger firefighters face on the job, but a lesser-known issue firefighters must battle is keeping carcinogens out of their skin.

"Every day there [are] more and more new materials that are coming up for building and furnishing homes, and when they burn they put out all kinds of toxins," said Assistant Chief Douglas Riley of the Lakeland Fire Department.

Toxins emitted from even small blazes, like a brush fire, can cause cancer.

A recent multi-year study completed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that firefighters are significantly more prone to suffer from cancer than the general U.S. population.

"It's just more hazardous for our guys when they go into those burning buildings," said Riley.

The Lakeland Fire Department is one of the first departments in Florida to take an extra step to protect its firefighters by providing them with particle filtering hoods.  The newly purchased hoods have three layers of material, making them more equipped to block out carcinogens.

"These new hoods, they're specially designed to protect our ears and our necks, and those are the most commonly exposed areas in a fire, around our heads," said Kyle Davis, a Lakeland firefighter and EMT.

The new hoods cost $80 each, which is about three times the cost of the older and thinner cotton-based hoods, according to Lakeland Fire officials.

The department said the benefit of the new equipment is well worth the cost.

"Our guys are out there on the front lines in a very dangerous job, and we want to make sure they have the absolute best protection that we can give them," said Riley.

"Going home and not having to worry about cancer, it's very important for us," said Davis.