Cardiovascular and Chemical Exposure Risks on Today's Training Ground

This study examines on the cardiovascular and chemical exposure risks faced by firefighters during training.

Advancing our understanding of firefighter training exposures

While the Fire Service has become more aware of the cardiovascular and chemical exposure risks apparent on the fireground, there has yet to be strong research conducted around firefighter training environments that may place firefighters at risk for cardiovascular events and cancer.

Many believe that training fires are less hazardous than the fireground, but do not have any supporting data pointing to that conclusion. For some firefighters, training fires may represent a majority of their live-fire responses. That combined with the ever-changing fuels used in live-fire training, it is necessary to evaluate the potential exposures that may be created for the firefighter. This study aims to examine the cardiovascular and chemical risks associated with firefighter training as well as ways to mitigate and reduce those risks.

The Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI), UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) teams reconvened much of the same data collection instrumentation used in the Cardiovascular and Chemical Exposure Risk on Today’s Fireground study, with firefighters responding to training scenarios similar to that utilized to prepare for a response to a fire in a single-family home.

Expanding on previous research to answer new questions

Data analysis is currently on-going to study the impact of different training environments on thermal strain, cardiovascular stress, and chemical exposures as well as comparing to the similar fireground data from the previous study.

For this study, the team created three common training environments that involved either natural wood (pallet), oriented strand board (OSB), or obscuration through theatrical smoke within a common training structure (concrete building or metal structure). Before and after firefighters conducted various scenarios within these training environments, concentrations of airborne contaminants (PAHs, VOCs, acid gases, isocyanates and aldehydes), biological exposures, and physiological responses of firefighters and fire instructors were evaluated for comparison.

The ultimate deliverable from this study will be an educational toolkit that will make this critical new data immediately available for the fire service to utilize. Along with the toolkit, there will also be an online training course developed by UL FSRI. 

IFSI Training Fires from the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (UL FSRI) on Vimeo.

 

Relevant Resources

RESOURCE #1: Assessing the Cardiovascular and Chemical Risks Faced by Firefighter on ULfirefightersafety.org

RESOURCE #2: Cardiovascular and Chemical Exposure Risks in Today's Training Ground on FSI.illinois.edu

RESOURCE #3: Protection from Chemical, Thermal, and Cardiovascular Risks: Impact of PPE Laundering and Hood Design

RESOURCE #4: 10 Considerations Related to Cardiovascular and Chemical Risks

RESOURCE #5: Cardiovascular and Chemical Risk Considerations During Training

 

Fast Facts

  • This research highlights the health impacts of fire service training activities and exposures.
  • It evaluates firefighter and fire instructor physiological responses, biological exposures, and concentrations of airborne contaminants based on various scenarios within common training environments.