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Health hazard evaluation report: evaluation of chemical exposures during fire fighter training exercises involving smoke simulant.

Fent KW; Musolin K; Methner M
Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HETA 2012-0028-3190, 2013 Jul; :1-39
The Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program evaluated fire fighter trainers' exposure to smoke simulants during training exercises and symptoms. Exercises involving smoke simulants are held in a training tower to train fire fighters on proper fire-attack and victim-rescue techniques in low visibility conditions. Airborne levels were above exposure limits for mineral oil mist during exercises involving only oil-based smoke simulant and were about half the exposure limits for diethylene glycol and formaldehyde during an exercise that involved only glycol-based smoke simulant. Levels of mineral oil mist, diethylene glycol, formaldehyde, and acrolein in the air were above exposure limits during exercises involving smoke simulant, heat, and fire. Levels of these compounds could exceed exposure limits outside the training room when trainers open the door. Investigators determined that the mineral oil mist and diethylene glycol aerosols were small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs. Brief exposures to these compounds could irritate the eyes and lungs or cause serious lung damage. Investigators reviewed trainers' medical records and confirmed a respiratory illness in one fire fighter that was due to prolonged exposure to mineral oil mist. Medical interviews found the most commonly reported symptom among trainers was cough. HHE Program investigators recommended that trainers not re-enter the training tower without wearing appropriate respirators until the tower is visibly clear of smoke simulant. Investigators recommended that the employer require trainers to wear self-contained breathing apparatus inside the tower during exercises that involve heat or fire even if they are outside the training room. Trainers should also wear self-contained breathing apparatus or full-facepiece air purifying respirators with cartridges or canisters that are effective against oil-based aerosol and formaldehyde during exercises that involve only smoke simulants. The employer should rotate training officer duties throughout the day. Investigators recommended creating a schedule for changing out respirator cartridges and canisters, and fit-testing all trainers for each respirator they wear.
Region-6; Fire-fighting; Fire-fighters; Training; Simulation-methods; Smoke-inhalation; Smoke-control; Chemical-reactions; Chemical-indicators; Employee-exposure; Occupational-exposure; Mineral-oils; Oil-mists; Environmental-exposure; Exposure-assessment; Exposure-levels; Formaldehydes; Glycols; Ethylenes; Air-quality-monitoring; Aerosol-particles; Aerosols; Eye-irritants; Lung-irritants; Respiratory-system-disorders; Medical-monitoring; Respirators; Respiratory-irritants; Respiratory-protection; Air-purifying-respirators; Thermal-decomposition; Heat; Heat-exposure; Fire-safety; Author Keywords: Fire Protection; simulated smoke; smoke simulant; fire fighter training; training exercises; theatrical smoke; fog; fogging machine; mineral oil; diethylene glycol; thermal decomposition
111-46-6; 50-00-0; 107-02-8
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
HETA-2012-0028-3190; M082013
NIOSH Division
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: April 1, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division