Advancing our understanding of two leading occupational hazards of firefighting
Sudden cardiac events and carcinogen-related cancers are among the most pressing firefighter health concerns. However, relatively little fire safety information exists on the effects of cumulative exposures that firefighters face while working on the modern fireground and participating in training exercises.
This study’s team is rigorously analyzing and synthesizing existing data on fireground exposures, recovery timelines and the effectiveness of on-scene Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and skin decontamination.
In addition, the team is investigating cardiovascular and carcinogenic exposure during training fire scenarios. They are specifically focused on fuels commonly used during firefighter training- such as Oriented Strand Board (OSB) and theatrical smoke- to determine whether instructors and students are needlessly exposed to unacceptable risks that would prompt firefighter health concerns.
Getting meaningful results from realistic conditions
For the component of the study focusing on the modern fire environment, researchers constructed a realistic modern structure—accurate down to the interior finishes, fuel loads and features. Twelve-member crews then fought fires in the structure. Safety systems and hardened construction techniques were incorporated to ensure participants’ safety.
The team also recreated several realistic firefighter safety training scenarios, including pallets and straw in a concrete building, pallets and OSB in a steel container system and theatrical smoke and simulated fire in a training prop. Four-member crews participating in three different evolutions, and five-member instructor cadres participated in six evolutions.
During this fire safety study, four key measurements were tracked:
- The production and transfer of thermal energy, as well as the magnitude and composition of gases and particles in the fire environment,
- Contamination of firefighters’ PPE and skin,
- Absorption of that contamination into the firefighters’ bodies, and
- How these variables were influenced by tactical decisions (interior only vs. transitional attack) and operating locations (interior fire suppression exterior operations vs. interior overhaul)
Researchers also examined cardiovascular responses to firefighting and to specific firefighting tactics and operating location by assessing electrocardiogram responses, blood chemistry and coagulatory measures and vascular responses during and up to 12 hours following firefighting.
- The study combines results from a research project on fire training risks and a related investigation into the risks of modern firefighting.
- It synthesizes existing data on fireground exposures, recovery timelines and the effectiveness of on-scene Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and skin decontamination.
UL FSRI Peer-Reviewed Journal Article Summarizes Impact of Firefighter PPE Design, Laundering, and Removal on Exposure Risks
The firefighting personal protective equipment (PPE) ensemble is designed to protect firefighters from an array of hazards. Protecting the neck and head regions is particularly challenging as thin dermal layers and vasculature may be subject to elevated thermal conditions.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article Summarizes Impact of Repeated Smoke Exposures and Cleaning Techniques on Firefighting PPE
The "Impact of Repeated Exposure and Cleaning on Protective Properties of Structural Firefighting Turnout Gear" peer-reviewed, archival journal article summarizes the impact of repeated smoke exposures from household combustibles followed by different cleaning techniques.
Firefighter Cancer Consultants Podcast Features UL FSRI Research Engineer
On the Tuesday, July 13 episode of “The 25 Live” podcast, Gavin Horn, Research Engineer for the UL Firefighter Research Institute (FSRI) discusses research focused on reducing firefighter exposures in the firehouse, during training and on the fireground.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article Highlights Flame Retardants in Air and on PPE During Firefighting Operations
The article summarizes airborne and personal protective equipment (PPE) contamination levels measured after controlled residential fire attack, and provides an evaluation of a control measure firefighters may implement to control cross contamination.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article Examines the Effectiveness of Decontamination Procedures on Firefighter Personal Protective Equipment and Skin
Firefighters' skin may be exposed to chemicals and volatile contaminants can also evaporate from PPE and be inhaled by firefighters. This article details experiments to investigate the contamination of firefighters’ turnout gear and skin after controlled residential fire responses.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article Evaluates Cardiovascular Strain and Sudden Cardiac Events in Firefighters
Active firefighting is often associated with an increased risk of experiencing a sudden cardiac event. This study evaluated electrocardiographic changes that may reflect increased SCE risk following simulated live-fire training.