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Secret to Firefighter Health Could Be a Trip to the Sauna

DEWITT, Iowa  --  Occupational hazards put firefighters at a higher risk for cancer and other diseases, but a trip to the sauna could change that.

OSHA reports that an increasing number of firefighters are suffering serious illnesses in later life.  Exposure to chemicals and soot and ash on the job is believed to be one of the leading causes.  Research shows much of those chemicals absorbed by firefighters' bodies can be removed by sweating it out.

An eastern Iowa fire supply company believes the research so much that they are now stocking saunas along with helmets, axes and jackets.  Sandry Fire Supply, based in DeWitt, says its scene tests where firefighters are able to wipe away yellow-gray film off their skin after sitting in a sauna.  The Johnston-Granger Fire Department is currently raising money to buy a sauna.

The Des Moines Fire Department does not have a sauna in its facilities.  However firefighters are instructed to do some sweating after working a fire scene.  Brian O'Keefe with DMFD says firefighters are instructed to take three hot showers within 24 hours of fighting a fire.  The hot showers help sweat out toxins.  The department has added a new hood to coats this year to give firefighters heads more protection from on the job hazards.