Discovery of firefighter chemical exposures using military-style silicone dog tags

Environ Int. 2020 Sep;142:105818. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2020.105818. Epub 2020 Jun 7.


Occupational chemical hazards in the fire service are hypothesized to play a role in increased cancer risk, and reliable sampling technologies are necessary for conducting firefighter chemical exposure assessments. This study presents the military-style dog tag as a new configuration of silicone passive sampling device to sample individual firefighters' exposures at one high and one low fire call volume department in the Kansas City, Missouri metropolitan area. The recruited firefighters (n = 56) wore separate dog tags to assess on- and off-duty exposures (ndogtags = 110), for a total of 30 24 h shifts. Using a 63 PAH method (GC-MS/MS), the tags detected 45 unique PAHs, of which 18 have not been previously reported as firefighting exposures. PAH concentrations were higher for on- compared to off-duty tags (0.25 < Cohen's d ≤ 0.80) and for the high compared to the low fire call volume department (0.25 ≤ d < 0.70). Using a 1530 analyte screening method (GC-MS), di-n-butyl phthalate, diisobutyl phthalate, guaiacol, and DEET were commonly detected analytes. The number of fire attacks a firefighter participated in was more strongly correlated with PAH concentrations than firefighter rank or years in the fire service. This suggested that quantitative data should be employed for firefighter exposure assessments, rather than surrogate measures. Because several detected analytes are listed as possible carcinogens, future firefighter exposure studies should consider evaluating complex mixtures to assess individual health risks.

Keywords: Firefighter; Occupational exposure; Passive sampling; Personal monitoring; Phthalates; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational*
  • Animals
  • Dogs
  • Firefighters*
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel*
  • Missouri
  • Occupational Exposure* / analysis
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons* / analysis
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons* / toxicity
  • Silicones
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Silicones