BOSTON (CBS) -- A group of Boston Firefighters has teamed up for this year's Pan-Mass Challenge, a two-day bike ride across Massachusetts to raise millions of dollar for cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
"Everybody here knows somebody battling cancer," explained Drew Wallace, captain of Team Boston Fire. Among firefighters, it's a staggering toll: "In the Boston Fire Department alone, every 3 weeks, there is a firefighter diagnosed with cancer."
These men and women run toward danger every day on the job. And it's that chronic exposure to smoke that can put them at a higher risk of cancer. "I PMC because the Pan-Mass Challenge is the single most successful charity in the fight against cancer and firefighters are among the leading professions affected by it. So it's really a no-brainer for us," said Wallace.
Nearly 200 Boston Firefighters have died from cancer since 1990.
"The fire station is really a second home for firefighters," said Emily Sparer, Research Associate at the Center for Climate Health and the Global Environment and the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "So, we want to know what are they being exposed to at this house." Sparer and her team are now collecting dust and monitoring air quality at firehouses around Boston. The hope is to determine which chemicals are coming back to the station from the fire scenes.
Sparer began this research while working at Dana Farber and she told us that money from the PMC was critical in launching this study. "We were able to use some of the funding from the PMC to really help start the entire project that we're doing today," she said.
The work is particularly meaningful to Sparer who was once, herself, rescued from a fire. "They're the ones who are protecting us in our weakest moments and if there's anything we can do to actually reduce their cancer rates we need to do it."
These are much-needed efforts to save the lives of the first responders who risk theirs every day. Team Boston Fire is going the distance to get us all closer to a cure. "We just try to play a small part in a large fight against cancer," explained Wallace. "That's why we run the team, that's why we put the efforts to the charity, that's why we try to pay it forward."
Donate to the Team Boston Fire PMC fundraiser here.
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