May 17, 2005-Seventy-five percent of American firefighters who died of heart attacks went to work with known or detectable heart conditions, says a new National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report that analyzed U.S. firefighter deaths from 1995 to 2004.
Heart attack is the leading cause of on-duty deaths among firefighters and is a major reason why firefighter fatalities have not declined in recent years, even though fewer firefighters are killed in burning structures, according to the report released Monday.
It found that an average of 97 U.S. firefighters died each year during the 1990s. Since 2000, that’s increased to an average of 102 deaths a year, and does not include the hundreds who were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Over the 10 years studied in the NFPA report, 440 of the firefighters (43.7 percent) who died on the job suffered sudden cardiac death (heart attack or other heart-related sudden death).
The NFPA report examined medical information for 308 of those 440 firefighters and found that 134 had previously suffered a heart attack, undergone bypass, or angioplasty/stent placement. Most of them had known heart disease but were not on restricted duty. Ninety-seven had severe blockage of the heart’s arteries but it wasn’t clear if they knew about it prior to their deaths.