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Acute respiratory effects of smoke exposure in wildland firefighters.

Gaughan-DM; Cox-Ganser-JM; Kreiss-K; Enright-PL
NORA Symposium 2006: Research Makes a Difference! April 18-26, 2006, Washington, DC. Washington, DC: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2006 Apr; :211
Respiratory problems are estimated to affect 5% to 10% of wildland firefighters. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health assessed the acute respiratory effects of smoke exposure in 56 members of two National Park Service Interagency "Hotshot" Crews. We collected questionnaire and spirometry data during two preseason training sessions in May 2004 and May 2005, for 8 days during a wildfire in Alaska in July 2004, 3 days during a wildfire in Wyoming in July 2005, and 8 days during a prescribed fire in Yosemite National Park in October 2005. The most recent observations were used for individuals who fully participated both years. Forty two individuals participated in one or more preseason and one or more fire assessments. The cohort was comprised primarily of white males (88%). The median age was 26 years and the median time spent as a firefighter was 7 months. At the baseline assessment, 13 participants reported a history of asthma. Three of the 5 with current asthma were diagnosed after becoming a firefighter. All 5 had normal spirometry but three were taking asthma medication. Two prevalent cases of abnormal spirometry were observed among participants with no history of respiratory disease: one participant had borderline obstruction and another had a mildly low vital capacity. For all 42 firefighters, the mean preseason FEV1 was 4.5L. At the fires, the mean FEV1 decreased 0.10L (95% CI, 0.04L - 0.17L; p <0.01). The mean cross-shift change in FEV1 was a 0.04L decline (95% CI, 0.01L - 0.06L; p <0.01). Wildland firefighters may experience acute reductions in lung function while fighting fires and during the firefighting season. More studies are needed to determine if some of these respiratory effects persist or accumulate from year-to-year.
Fire-fighters; Fire-fighting; Occupational-exposure; Smoke-inhalation; Respiratory-system-disorders; Questionnaires; Spirometry; Exposure-assessment; Demographic-characteristics; Age-factors; Sex-factors; Racial-factors; Bronchial-asthma; Risk-factors; Risk-analysis; Acute-exposure; Pulmonary-function; Pulmonary-function-tests
Publication Date
Document Type
Conference/Symposia Proceedings; Abstract
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Disease and Injury: Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Source Name
NORA Symposium 2006: Research Makes a Difference! April 18-26, 2006, Washington, DC.