BEDFORD, OH -- Firefighters with the Bedford Fire Department are sweating out toxins built up inside their bodies by using a new chemical detox infrared sauna.
"Traditionally, in the fire service, it was always cool if you had the dirtiest gear and the dirtiest helmet, that meant you were the coolest guy on the truck. Well, those carcinogens stay on your gear and ultimately find their way into your skin and into your blood stream," said Chief Dave Nagy.
During a fire, wood, plastic, furniture and electronics burn, sending highly carcinogenic chemicals into the air.
Much of it goes right through firefighter's gear.
"Everything that's burning in the room is giving off some kind of hydrocarbon, whether it's plastics, chemicals," said firefighter Tom Mitchell.
One of the top tools firefighters everywhere use to protect themselves from cancer are hoods that protect their head, their ears and their neck from the toxins and the heat.
Despite the precautions, University Hospitals Doctor Rodney Folz said the deadly chemicals can still get absorbed through firefighter's skin and inhaled into their lungs.
"If they're particular toxic or carcinogen they can lead to cancers when they're exposed to them," he said.
Cancer is the leading killer for firefighters.
From 2002 to 2016, 61 percent of line-of-duty deaths were cancer-related.
"I don't think it was a thought when you join the fire force, hey, I'm going to get cancer," said Mitchell.
After watching friends and loved ones fight cancer, Mitchell became the driving force behind buying the chemical detox sauna in Bedford.
"It's devastating to the family, to the people, so if we have a chance to prevent it and it's as simple as just getting in a sauna, and riding a bike for a little bit, then we're way ahead of the game," said Mitchell.
The medical grade, infrared unit operates at a lower temperature than a regular sauna. By combining cardio with dry heat, firefighters sweat out deadly toxins that sat in their skin for years.
"You go take a cold shower then you go ride the bike for 10 or 15 minutes, you come out, you wipe off and you go take a shower again and you just don't smell. Your hands don't smell, your hair doesn't smell," said Mitchell.
Nagy firmly believes the sauna is life-saving.
"It's probably, in my 23 years, the most beneficial piece of equipment that I've seen come along in the fire service," he said. "If we can prevent one person and their family from going through this, for me that's a solid purchase."
The detox sauna costs about $8,000.
The Bedford Fire Department used donations from the Bedford Eagles to buy it.
Firefighters said they're recommended to use the sauna at least twice a week.