Firefighter Killer: Heart Disease
Heart Disease Is Firefighters' Biggest On-Duty Death Risk
WebMD News Archive
March 21, 2007 -- Heart disease kills more on-duty firefighters than
anything else -- and it is definitely linked to emergency duties, a
Harvard study shows.
Most people think firefighters' biggest death threats are fires and
collapsing buildings. But over the last 30 years it's been shown that 45% of
firefighters' on-duty deaths come from heart disease.
Firefighters, however, don't have a higher rate of heart deaths than do
people in other jobs. So are these deaths really related to the heroic service
Yes, find Harvard researcher Stefanos N. Kales, MD, MPH, and colleagues.
Kales' team analyzed data on all firefighter deaths between 1994 and 2004,
except those linked to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They also looked at how a
representative sample of firefighters spend their time.
"What our study is showing is the majority of on-duty heart deaths in
firefighters are work related and are precipitated by physical and toxic
factors," Kales tells WebMD.
The researchers found that, compared with when they perform nonemergency
- Firefighters are 12 to 136 times more likely to die of heart disease when
putting out a fire.
- Firefighters are 3 to 14 times more likely to die of heart disease while
responding to an alarm.
- Firefighters are 2 to 10.5 times more likely to die of heart disease while
returning from an alarm.
- Firefighters are 3 to 7 times more likely to die of heart disease during
The findings appear in the March 22 issue of The New England Journal of