Acute respiratory effects in firefighters

Am J Ind Med. 2012 Jan;55(1):54-62. doi: 10.1002/ajim.21012. Epub 2011 Sep 29.


Background: Associations between acute respiratory inflammatory responses, changes in bronchial hyperresponsiveness, serum pneumoprotein levels, and exposure to fire smoke were studied.

Methods: The study comprised 51 firefighters. Blood samples were taken within 24 hr following exposure to fire smoke, and after a week and 3 months. Sputum was induced within 5 days post-exposure and subjects underwent spirometry and methacholine provocation one week post-exposure. Exposure was registered by a questionnaire.

Results: No changes were observed following smoke exposure in bronchial hyperresponsiveness and serum pneumoprotein levels. Nevertheless, in a sizable proportion of the firefighters (44%) elevated sputum neutrophil levels (≥60%) were found. Serum IL-8 concentrations were higher 24 hr post-exposure compared to pre-exposure. Elevated neutrophil levels in sputum were associated with elevated serum IL-8 (β = 0.010, P = 0.004) and TNFα (β = 0.005, P = 0.034) levels within 24 hr post-exposure and IL-8 elevation lasted up to 3 months.

Conclusions: Acute exposure to fire smoke induces acute neutrophilic airway and long-lasting systemic inflammation in healthy firefighters in the absence of bronchial hyperresponsiveness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Bronchial Hyperreactivity / blood
  • Bronchial Hyperreactivity / physiopathology*
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Firefighters*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Neutrophils
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Smoke / adverse effects
  • Smoke Inhalation Injury / blood
  • Smoke Inhalation Injury / physiopathology*
  • Spirometry
  • Sputum / chemistry
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Uteroglobin / blood


  • Cytokines
  • Smoke
  • Uteroglobin