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Fire Ground Exposures

Today’s fires are hotter and more dangerous than ever due to the synthetic products and building materials that are fueling them.  As modern technology has changed the way fire departments respond to various emergencies, fire fighters are slowly dying without recognition of the effects of the products of combustion they are extinguishing. The fires are creating greater levels of hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, carcinogens and many other toxic substances have changed the way fire burns over the past 50 years.


During this timeline, plastics and synthetics have replaced “ordinary” combustible materials making fire burn two to three times hotter, creating faster flashovers, and generating many more toxic combustion byproducts that create acute and chronic health related effects to our members.


The IAFF will continue to provide assistance and educational materials regarding immediate and long-term dangers of fire ground exposures.  We also monitor efforts on these issues by government agencies, outside organizations, manufacturers, educational institutions, and of course fire and EMS departments on these issues.  In 2006, within days after fire fighters in Providence, Rhode Island were medically evaluated for cyanide exposure after a series of fires, the IAFF requested that NIOSH provide technical assistance to evaluate hydrogen cyanide exposures and potential health effects.  The Providence Fire Department and IAFF Local 799 jointly conducted a landmark and exhaustive study of fire fighting and cyanide.  The IAFF has also addressed these issues at educational events, including the past two John P. Redmond Symposiums.


What we continue to support:


·         SCBA use during all fire emergencies, including during overhaul.


·         The procurement, use and training for monitoring devices, including environmental devices such as HCN sensors and medical monitors such as pulse oximeters.


·         Stocking cyanide antidotes, i.e. Cyanokit (hydroxocobalamin), for known or suspected cyanide poisoning, on all ALS units.


·         Continued medical and scientific studies on the fire fighting environment.


Comments (1) -

  • Mark Train L1212

    5/7/2010 9:39:00 PM |


    A great short article and something we should all rememeber when speaking to our government officials and summarizing the new challenges we face as professional fire fighters.
    Our own joint occupational health and safety committee has announced that HCN monitors are coming to our local.
    We (the local executive) will advocate their use to our members.  We have had members who suffered serious medical complications that were eventually attributed to HCN.
    Mark Train
    Mississauga, ON

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