Background: Firefighters have increased cancer incidence and mortality rates compared to the general population, and are exposed to multiple products of combustion including known and suspected carcinogens.
Objective: The study objective was to quantify fire response exposures by role and self-reported exposure risks.
Methods: Urinary hydroxylated metabolites of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH-OHs) were measured at baseline and 2-4 h after structural fires and post-fire surveys were collected.
Results: Baseline urine samples were collected from 242 firefighters. Of these, 141 responded to at least one of 15 structural fires and provided a post-fire urine. Compared with baseline measurements, the mean fold change of post-fire urinary PAH-OHs increased similarly across roles, including captains (2.05 (95% CI 1.59-2.65)), engineers (2.10 (95% CI 1.47-3.05)), firefighters (2.83 (95% CI 2.14-3.71)), and paramedics (1.84 (95% CI 1.33-2.60)). Interior responses, smoke odor on skin, and lack of recent laundering or changing of hoods were significantly associated with increased post-fire urinary PAH-OHs.
Significance: Ambient smoke from the fire represents an exposure hazard for all individuals on the fireground; engineers and paramedics in particular may not be aware of the extent of their exposure. Post-fire surveys identified specific risks associated with increased exposure.
Keywords: Cancer; Dermal exposure; Inhalation exposure; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; Vulnerable occupations; Workplace exposures.
© 2021. The Author(s).