Background: Previous studies have found significant associations between firefighting and cancer.
Methods: Fires, vehicle movement, and firefighter job assignment were determined, and storage and distribution of self-contained-breathing-apparatus (SCBAs) were tracked for 12 months. Time spent at fires and use of SCBAs were calculated.
Results: Only 66% of fire department personnel were 1st-line combat firefighters. Number of runs was an unreliable surrogate for time spent at fires. Eight firefighter exposure groups were identified (based on job title, firehall assignment, and time spent at fires), ranging from no exposures to 3,244 min/year/firefighter. SCBAs appear to have been used for approximately 50% of the time at structural fires but for only 6% of the time at all fires.
Conclusions: Failure of previous studies to identify homogeneous exposure groups may have resulted in misclassification and underestimates of health risks. The approach used in this study may be used in epidemiological studies to identify exposure/response relationships.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc