HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — January is firefighter cancer awareness month. It’s a time for departments and advocates to raise awareness about the ongoing occupational hazards that firefighters face every day.

According to research by the CDC and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Firefighters have a 9% higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14% higher risk of dying from cancer than the average person but, advocates in Alabama are working toward ways to help lower those statistics.

Toney Volunteer Fire Department President Heath Jones said the Huntsville Fire Department’s Cancer Committee is investing in helping local departments fight one of the main factors that contribute to a higher risk of cancer among firefighters, namely the absorption of hazardous chemicals through their skin. The department is doing this with new decon kits.

“The fire ground decon kit consists of a hose, a two-and-a-half to one-inch connection that comes off our fire pump on the fire truck and it deploys out into a nozzle that has a dish solution already mixed in,” Jones said, “and then you spray a firefighter from head to toe and that washes 75 to 85% of the carcinogens off the firefighter’s turnout gear.”

Jones said the cancer committee supplied each department in the city and county with a decon kit.

The committee said the use of these kits before firefighters leave fire scenes will increase the longevity of a firefighter’s career and life. They also encourage firefighters to get cancer screenings annually for early detection.