The hidden hazards of being a cop

A medical professional looks at a X-ray

The threats you can't see

The chance of being diagnosed with lung cancer by 85 is 1/13 for men, and 1/21 for women.

It’s the fifth most common cause of cancer in Australia and the survival rate is low at 17%.

You’ve probably heard the stories of people getting this disease, without being a smoker.

A recent Daily Mail story reported on an ex police officer who got lung cancer from being exposed to drugs left in a police storage unit, after a raid. 

Methylamphetamine was released into the air and on to the officers’ skin, which led to chronic respiratory complications.

This heartbreaking narrative serves as just one example of the dangers of police work on the lungs.

Officers are exposed to second-hand smoke when controlling public places and events.

They might enter houses with asbestos, unknowingly.

Exhaust fumes can also increase the risk of lung cancer and it’s part of an officer’s job to run intersection duty when the traffic lights are out.

The hidden hazard of being a cop

The life expectancy for a police officer is lower than the general population.

However, you might be surprised to discover this is more to do with indirect consequences of working in law enforcement.

For example, the reliance on tobacco to curb chronic stress.

Smoking is high among officers, at a whopping 40%.

Stress is well-documented with smoking, and officers have to deal with the most horrific situations on a daily basis.

Add to this the pressure of shift work, irregular sleeping patterns, and the responsibility of protecting the community.

But smoking is counter-intuitive. This short-term ‘coping mechanism’ causes ongoing guilt, especially when an officer has multiple attempts to quit.

It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be intercepted with professional help.

Substances aren’t stress relief. They’re a mask, a problematic band-aid.

It’s important for officers to get to the root cause of the stress, rather than use smoking as an instant release.

Look after your lungs

It goes without saying: don’t smoke and work with a psychologist or counsellor to navigate addictive behaviour and to process trauma.

An exercise physiologist can plan your regime, while a dietician will map out your healthy diet, rich in vitamins and minerals.

Complementary therapies can aid in breathing. 

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