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Assessing the risk to firefighters from chemical vapors and gases during vehicle fire suppression.

Authors
Fent-KW; Evans-DE
Source
J Environ Monit 2011 Mar; 13(3):536-543
NIOSHTIC No.
20038342
Abstract
Despite the frequent occurrence of vehicle fires, very few studies investigating firefighters' potential inhalation exposures during vehicle fire suppression have been conducted. In this paper, we present an assessment of firefighters' health risk from vehicle fire suppression that accounts for the mixture of gases and vapors likely to be found in these fires. Summa canisters were used to collect emissions from the engine and cabin fires of a single vehicle and were analyzed for 75 volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Firefighters' breathing zone concentrations (BZCs) of aromatic hydrocarbons, aldehydes, isocyanates, and carbon monoxide were measured during the suppression of three vehicle fires. The Summa canister and BZC data were used to develop a simple model for predicting BZCs for the compounds that were not measured in the firefighters' breathing zones. Hazard quotients (HQs) were calculated by dividing the predicted and measured BZCs by the most conservative short-term exposure limits (STELs) or ceiling limits. Hazard indices (HIs) were determined by adding HQs for compounds grouped by the target organ for acute health effects. Any HIs above unity represented unacceptable risks. According to this mixture analysis, the estimated 95th percentile of the exposure distribution for the study population represents >/= 9.2 times the acceptable level of risk to the respiratory tract and eyes. Furthermore, chemicals known or reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens contributed to >45% of these HIs. While STELs are not usually based on carcinogenicity, maintaining exposures below STELs may protect individuals from the biological stress that could result from short-term exposures to carcinogens over time. Although vehicle fires are suppressed quickly (<10 min), this assessment suggests that firefighters have the potential to be overexposed to acute toxins during vehicle fire suppression and should therefore wear self-contained breathing apparatus at all times during vehicle fire response.
Keywords
Motor-vehicles; Emergency-responders; Emergency-response; Fire-fighters; Fire-fighting-equipment; Fire-fighting; Fire-hazards; Inhalants; Inhalation-studies; Exposure-assessment; Health-hazards; Risk-analysis; Gases; Vapors; Volatiles; Organic-compounds; Breathing-zone; Sampling; Aromatic-hydrocarbons; Aldehydes; Isocyanates; Exposure-limits; Respiratory-irritants; Eye-irritants; Carcinogens; Short-term-exposure; Toxins; Self-contained-breathing-apparatus; HETA 2008-0241-3113
Contact
Kenneth W. Fent, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies, 4676 Columbia Parkway, MS R-11, Cincinnati, OH, 45226, USA
CODEN
JEMOFW
CAS No.
630-08-0
Publication Date
20110301
Document Type
Journal Article
Email Address
kfent@cdc.gov
Fiscal Year
2011
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Issue of Publication
3
ISSN
1464-0325
NIOSH Division
DSHEFS; DART
Priority Area
Services; Manufacturing
Source Name
Journal of Environmental Monitoring
State
OH
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