PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) -- In the past six months, Phoenix Firefighter Brian Beck Jr., Phoenix Firefighter Rick Telles and Mesa Firefighter Nikki Sullivan all died from what officials describe as occupational cancers…and they’re not alone.
According to the International Association of Fire Fighters, cancer is the No. 1 line-of-duty killer for firefighters.
Knowing the staggering statistics, former El Mirage Firefighter Ed Cunningham wanted to do something about that.
“What most people don’t know is once we exit the structure, our gear becomes so saturated with these toxins, that it becomes our greatest threat," said Cunningham.
Cunningham created the Rehnke Decon Kit, named after Peoria Firefighter Capt. Dave Rehnke, who’s currently battling kidney cancer.
“Here we have a firefighter who’s exited the structure, we have everything mixed up inside of here, once the decon compound has been applied, it will start soaking in and actually binding in to all the toxins, carcinogens and poisons and removing them from even as deep as the thread," said Cunningham.
In a study set to be released by Baylor University at the end of June, more than 30 different carcinogens were found on the gear of a firefighter who just walked out of a blaze.
The current industry standard is to simply clean off gear with dish soap and a common citrus-based cleaner, which only partially removes toxins.
Cunningham says his solution completely detoxifies.
As for the poisons that settle into the skin, Phoenix Firefighter Creston Ludlow teamed up with Cunningham to develop towelettes called FireWipes.
“Our product actually helps them take a shower on scene before we can get to the shower and change out," said Ludlow.
Right now, Queen Creek is one of just a few fire departments who use this cleansing system, but the goal is to get every station in the country taking bigger steps to protect their firefighters once the fire is put out.