Firefighting has always been a risky job, but some of the most insidious risks were not recognized until the past decade. A 2013 NIOSH study confirmed the long-suspected link between firefighting and a higher risk of cancer. Soot, smoke and other by-products of combustion can be as dangerous as the flames themselves if allowed to remain on equipment, gear and skin. The increased use of synthetic materials and plastics in construction and furnishings in the past few decades means increased exposure for firefighters. These substances may be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. –Janelle Foskett, FireRescue1 editor.