OSLO, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- A recent research shows that every fourth out of 2,579 firefighters in Norway from 1961 until 2005 got cancer and they have now collected money to find out what makes them ill, public broadcaster NRK reported on Thursday.
"Here you can see how we get exposed at a place that has caught fire. We had only oil-based rainwear and no mask," Steinar Thunhold, a pensioner and former firefighter, said when showing an old photograph to NRK.
Thunhold had worked for 30 years as a firefighter in Bergen Fire Brigade. In January 2016 he received a shocking message that he suffered from bone marrow cancer.
Kristina Kjaerheim, a researcher at the Cancer Statistics, which published the research, told NRK that is was puzzling that so many firefighters suffered from cancer, especially since this group of citizens have to be healthy in order to do their jobs.
"We cannot confirm that every single substance the firefighters are exposed to is dangerous, but it may look like that the mixture of these is what leads to different forms of cancer," she said.
The risk of lung cancer among firefighters is 18 percent higher than the rest of the population. When it comes to malignant melanoma the risk is 61 percent higher and there is 32 percent higher risk for skin cancer.
The researchers also saw an increased risk of several other types of cancers, such as prostate cancer.
Norwegian firefighters and their trade unions have now raised a fund of about one million kroner (121,600 U.S. dollars) to conduct a research on the cancer causes and next year Kjaerheim will start up a project to find the reasons why many people get cancer.
Robert Corell, leader of Smestad Fire Brigade in Olso, said that he believed the whole group of firefighting professionals are scared and worried.
Corell said he also has a few colleagues who are cancer patients and nowadays there is a focus on health risks and wearing clean gear.
"The station is divided into clean and dirty parts. All the gear that has been used during fire fighting is taken off at the site, put in bags and afterwards washed at the station," he said.
"We need more research to find out which substances we still get in so that we can protect us from them more easily," he added.
Thunold keeps old newspaper clips that will be used as evidences to show how he and his colleagues have risked their health by not having good protection against the dangerous substances at work. The goal is to get workers' compensation.
"It is important for me to get a concession from the government. By giving us a compensation, the authorities would show that they take us seriously. Perhaps they would also provide more funds for equipment so that we can prevent this from continuing," he said.
According to the organization Firefighters Against Cancer, almost non of the ill firefighters received compensation since suffering from cancer. The researchers so far have not managed to prove the cause that leads to the sickness of so many Norwegian firefighters and as long it is not confirmed that the health damage happened because of their work, no compensation is possible.
"If we now find better evidence that there is a connection between cancer and occupational exposure, they will have a better chance to get compensation," Kjaerheim said.