Mesothelioma and Firefighters

Firefighters are true heroes, putting their lives on the line to keep others safe. They’re not just at risk of being physically injured on the job. They are also at risk of inhaling asbestos fibers released from burning building materials. As a result, they are at higher risk of developing mesothelioma. Firefighters who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, as well as their families, may be eligible for compensation for medical expenses and lost wages.

How Firefighters Are Exposed to Asbestos

Two firefighters putting on protective gear

Chrysotile, the most common type of asbestos, was widely used in building materials and insulation up until the mid-1980s. During a fire, these materials break down, releasing asbestos fibers into the air.

Because fires often cause widespread damage to a structure, the amount of asbestos that’s released can be extensive. If firefighters inhale these airborne fibers, they can become lodged in the lungs and other organs and cause asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma. Firefighters with mesothelioma could also have been exposed to asbestos through the heat- and fire-resistant protective clothing they wore.

Asbestos Building Materials

Throughout much of the 20th century, asbestos was a prized building material due to its strength, durability and heat-resistant properties. It was used extensively in nearly every component of a building, including:

While asbestos products were phased out of the construction industry beginning in the 1980s, older buildings may still contain asbestos and therefore pose a hazard to firefighters.

Protective Clothing

The same heat- and fire-resistant properties that made asbestos useful in building materials also meant it was used in firefighters’ equipment and protective clothing, including:

  • Turnout gear, like jackets and pants
  • Boots
  • Helmets
  • Gloves
  • Fire blankets

While asbestos materials could help protect firefighters from heat and catching fire, we now know that these items posed a risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. In addition, firefighters could bring home asbestos dust on their clothing and shoes or in their hair, potentially exposing their families to secondhand asbestos.

9/11 Asbestos Exposure

The North and South Towers of the World Trade Center were completed in the early 1970s, when asbestos was found in numerous construction materials. After 9/11, first responders and rescue workers faced significant asbestos exposure after the buildings collapsed, sending large amounts of fibers into the air.

Despite wearing protective gear, many responders were exposed to airborne asbestos fibers during rescue and cleanup efforts. Prolonged exposure has led to an increase in respiratory illnesses and cancers, including mesothelioma, in firefighters and other first responders.

Firefighters’ Mesothelioma Risk

Today, we know that firefighters face an increased risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos illnesses due to the nature of their job. This increased awareness has led to better training, stricter safety regulations and the development of specialized equipment to help mitigate the risk of inhaling asbestos fibers.

Mesothelioma usually takes decades to develop, which means that many firefighters and their families were exposed to asbestos before these safety protocols were in place. The large amount of time between exposure and mesothelioma diagnosis also makes this disease difficult to study. However, there are a few studies that have proven the link between mesothelioma and firefighters.

One 2013 study followed nearly 30,000 firefighters in San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia for decades. It found that the firefighters were diagnosed with mesothelioma at twice the rate of the general U.S. population.1 Another 2021 study also reported a significant increase in the rate of mesothelioma in firefighters compared to the general population.2 And in June of 2022, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) finalized its assessment of firefighters’ cancer risk,3 which led the World Health Organization to reclassify firefighting to its highest level of occupational risk for cancer.

Mesothelioma Compensation for Firefighters

Because there is a link between mesothelioma and firefighters’ asbestos exposure, you may have a few different legal options available to you.

Asbestos Trust Funds

Once the dangers of asbestos came to light, many companies that produced asbestos products faced so many lawsuits that they filed for bankruptcy. As part of their settlements, they created asbestos bankruptcy trust funds for mesothelioma victims.

These trust funds contain billions of dollars set aside for mesothelioma victims, and you often don’t need to file a lawsuit to receive compensation. An experienced attorney can guide you through the process of filing a claim.

Mesothelioma Lawsuits

Many companies known for asbestos used it in their products even after they knew of its risks. Firefighters with mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure may be able pursue legal action against manufacturers.

By filing a lawsuit, you could be awarded compensation for your mesothelioma treatment and lost wages, as well as the pain and suffering of you and your loved ones. Law firms like Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney and Meisenkothen (ELSM) specialize in mesothelioma lawsuits and can help get you the compensation you deserve.

Workers Compensation

Many cases of mesothelioma in firefighters can be traced back to occupational asbestos exposure. If you or your loved one was exposed to asbestos on the job, you might qualify for workers’ compensation. This is a type of insurance that employers are required to have for their employees. You may be able to file a claim with the insurance company for assistance with your medical bills, as well as lost wages due to time away from work.

Laws vary by state, so it is beneficial to work with an experienced mesothelioma attorney to learn about filing deadlines, eligibility and to ensure that you have all the required information for filing a claim.

Mesothelioma Attorneys for Firefighters

Many occupations face an increased chance of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma. Firefighters are unfortunately one of the most at-risk occupations. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you’ll want to have an experienced attorney on your side.

An asbestos attorney can help you determine the best way to move forward with your case. At ELSM, we have a proven record of success and have won millions in mesothelioma compensation for our clients, including a $4 million settlement for a firefighter with mesothelioma.

If you've received a mesothelioma diagnosis after working as a firefighter, contact us today for a free case evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What compensation options are there for firefighters with mesothelioma?

Firefighters who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma may be eligible for compensation. Depending on your situation, an experienced attorney may suggest filing claims with asbestos trust funds, filing a lawsuit against asbestos companies responsible for your exposure or filing for workers' compensation.

What are the treatment options for firefighters with mesothelioma?

Standard mesothelioma treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Experimental treatments may also be available through clinical trials. Firefighters with mesothelioma will have different treatment plans based on their specific diagnosis and stage of the disease.


  1. Daniels, R.D., Kubale, T.L., et al. Occup Environ Med. June 2014, 71(6): 388–397. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2013-101662.
  2. Laroche, E. and L’Espérance, S. Int J Environ Res Public Health. March 2021, 18(5): 2519. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18052519.
  3. Demers, P.A., DeMarini, D.M., et al. Lancet Oncol. August 2022, 23(8):985–986. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(22)00390-4.

Request a Free Case Evaluation

Request a free case evaluation now if you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma. The evaluation will cost you nothing. Our lawyers will travel to visit you at your convenience or conference call with you over the phone. We understand how difficult a time this is for you and will assist in any way that we can. You can also call us toll-free at 1-800-336-0086 at any time.