• New program helping protect St. Johns firefighters from toxins

    By: Kevin Clark , Action News Jax


    ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - A new program in St. Johns County is helping protect firefighters from the toxins they’re often exposed to while fighting fires.

    St. Johns County Fire Rescue rolled out its “de-contamination” program last month as part of a larger effort to keep firefighters healthy.

    After each call, firefighters are now required to scrub their equipment with soap and water, and wipe off their skin.

    “They wash all the heavy pollutants off them, scrub their skin with baby wipes, get out of the gear,” said Chief Joel Sneed.

    Through the program, firefighters would be less likely to spread toxins to other firefighters, their families, or become sick themselves.

    “Every house we go to that’s on fire, if you just look under someone’s sink, they have the ammonias, the bleaches, the mildew remover,” Sneed said.

    According to a 2015 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, firefighters are 9 percent more likely than the average person to be diagnosed with cancer.

    St. Johns County Fire Rescue has six firefighters who have battled cancer in the past.

    The program costs the department about $2,000 each year, although officials are hoping the state kicks in money next year.

    Right now, the “De-Con Kits” are included in six fire trucks, but as the program continues to expand, the goal is to have them in every truck.

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