Adverse respiratory effects following overhaul in firefighters

J Occup Environ Med. 2001 May;43(5):467-73. doi: 10.1097/00043764-200105000-00007.


Overhaul is the stage in which firefighters search for and extinguish possible sources of reignition. It is common practice not to wear respiratory protection during overhaul. Fifty-one firefighters in two groups, 25 without respiratory protection and 26 wearing cartridge respirators, were monitored for exposure to products of combustion and changes in spirometric measurements and lung permeability following overhaul of a structural fire. Testing at baseline and 1 hour after overhaul included forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), serum Clara cell protein (CC16), and serum surfactant-associated protein A (SP-A). Overhaul increased CC16 in both groups, indicating increased alveolarcapillary membrane permeability. Contrary to expectations, SP-A increased and FVC and FEV1 decreased in the firefighters wearing cartridge respirators. Changes in FEV1, CC16, and SP-A were associated with concentrations of specific products of combustion or carboxyhemoglobin levels. Firefighter exposures during overhaul have the potential to cause changes in spirometric measurements and lung permeability, and self-contained breathing apparatus should be worn during overhaul to prevent lung injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fires*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Lung Injury*
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Permeability
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory Protective Devices*
  • Spirometry