It’s in the smoke: cancer-causing compounds and contaminates

It’s in the smoke: cancer-causing compounds and contaminates

Every firefighter today should know that smoke is dangerous. However, the visible particles of combustion that we see as smoke are just the tip of the fire scene contamination iceberg. There are several toxic substances and carcinogens firefighters need to be aware of and protect against present in smoke. We are now learning that firefighters and fire investigators need nothing less than the maximum level of respiratory protection during fire overhaul activities. The typical structure fire today involves the high temperature destruction of many types of plastics, foams, various species of wood, fabrics and other materials. Gases and particulates liberated from these burning materials often contain toxic, reactive and otherwise unhealthy chemicals that are both inhalation hazards and skin absorption hazards. Phoenix exposure study Researchers from the University of Arizona and Arizona State University collaborated with the Phoenix (Ariz.) Fire Department in a study to characterize firefighter exposures during fire overhaul operations at 25 structure fires. During those overhaul evaluations, air quality monitoring found the following substances or compounds exceeded published ceiling values promulgated at the time by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: Acrolein. Acrolein produces intense irritation to the eye and mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. Acute exposures may result in bronchial inflammation, resulting in bronchitis or pulmonary edema. CO. CO is present in all fire environments as a product of incomplete combustion and decreases the oxygen transport of the blood, which results in an inadequate supply of oxygen to the tissues. Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is classified as a probable carcinogen and adverse health effects due to...
Step in the right direction: Decontamination of PPE must include boots

Step in the right direction: Decontamination of PPE must include boots

Shoes can be gross. We wear them everywhere. They collect everything – dirt, bacteria, germs, chemicals and mold spores, just to name a few – as we wear them throughout the day. And, then, most of us walk straight into our homes without removing them, only to transfer all that contamination to our carpets and rugs. GROSS DECONTAMINATION OF FIREFIGHTER BOOTS Imagine what your firefighting and station boots track into the station: road debris, petroleum residue, contaminated mud and dirt, blood and body fluids. While many fire stations have non-carpeted surfaces for easy cleaning, most dormitory areas are still carpeted. So, what’s in your carpet? Hopefully, your fire department prohibits bunker pants and boots in the living quarters of your station. But, do you still walk into the kitchen at 2:00 a.m. after returning from a call wearing your bunker pants and boots? Be honest. We’re paying more attention to conducting gross decontamination of our firefighting protective ensemble components before leaving the fire scene, and that’s a good thing. But what about your firefighting boots? Are they getting a good scrubbing, and not just a rinse from the water flowing down from above? WHAT DO THE GUIDELINES SAY ABOUT CLEANING FIREFIGHTER BOOTS? NFPA 1851: Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting doesn’t provide specific guidelines for cleaning firefighter boots to the degree that the standard addresses cleaning for turnout coats and pants. According to Pat Freeman, technical services manager at Globe Manufacturing, for normal cleaning, such as surface debris from a structural fire, Globe advises their customers to use a soft sponge or rag with...