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Fire & Rescue

Always Ready, Always There

Phone: 503-823-3700

Fax: 503-823-3710

55 SW Ash Street, Portland, OR 97204

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Firefighting and Asbestos Exposure

Firefighting is considered to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the world; every day, firefighters are exposed to hazardous materials while they work to save the lives of others. It is a common occurrence to be exposed to carbon monoxide, lead, arsenic, and most toxic of all asbestos.

Asbestos was a popular material used to construct buildings throughout much of the 20th century. Prior to the late 1980s, the use of asbestos was so widespread that nearly every home was constructed with asbestos-containing materials. Some of these materials are shingles, roofing, vinyl floor tile, furnace door gaskets, and pipe or duct insulation.

The slightest disturbance to asbestos-containing materials can cause asbestos fibers to become airborne. Once in the air, these microscopic fibers can easily be inhaled. Because of this, it is very important for firefighters to take all necessary precautions to avoid asbestos exposure.

Asbestos exposure is also the primary cause of mesothelioma cancer.

Did you know that firefighters are more at risk than the average person since they are more frequently in contact with materials containing asbestos?  It’s true! Mesothelioma has a latency period and may not show symptoms for over 20 years. As a result of this time delay, the cancer may likely progress to an advanced stage; at which point, mesothelioma treatment options are limited. There are treatments for mesothelioma; however, the life expectancy ranges from a few months to a few years.

In order to avoid exposure, firefighters here in Portland take a number of preventative steps. Portland firefighters wear a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) which is designed to provide protection against gases, dust, and toxic substances such as asbestos.  

Oregon Mesothelioma Resources

Learn more about mesothelioma in Oregon at

Additional Information

For more information on asbestos and mesothelioma, visit the Mesothelioma Center's Official website at or follow them on Facebook at