Exploratory breath analyses for assessing toxic dermal exposures of firefighters during suppression of structural burns.
Pleil JD; Stiegel MA; Fent KW
J Breath Res 2014 Sep; 8(3):037107
Firefighters wear fireproof clothing and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) during rescue and fire suppression activities to protect against acute effects from heat and toxic chemicals. Fire services are also concerned about long-term health outcomes from chemical exposures over a working lifetime, in particular about low-level exposures that might serve as initiating events for adverse outcome pathways (AOP) leading to cancer. As part of a larger U.S. National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study of dermal exposure protection from safety gear used by Chicago City firefighters, we collected pre- and post-fire fighting breath samples and analyzed for single-ring and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as bioindicators of occupational exposure to gas-phase toxicants. Under the assumption that SCBA protects completely against inhalation exposures, any changes in the exhaled profile of combustion products were attributed to dermal exposures from gas and particle penetration through the protective clothing. Two separate rounds of firefighting activity were performed each with 15 firefighters per round. Exhaled breath samples were collected onto adsorbent tubes and analyzed with gas-chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) with a targeted approach using selective ion monitoring. We found that single ring aromatics and some PAHs were statistically elevated in post-firefighting samples of some individuals suggesting that fire protective gear may allow for dermal exposures to airborne contaminants. However, in comparison to a previous occupational study of Air Force maintenance personnel where similar compounds were measured, these exposures are much lower suggesting that firefighters' gear is very effective. This study suggests that exhaled breath sampling and analysis for specific targeted compounds is a suitable method for assessing systemic dermal exposure in a simple and non-invasive manner.
Fire-fighters; Emergency-responders; Polycyclic-aromatic-hydrocarbons; Personal-protective-equipment; Protective-clothing; Protective-materials; Skin-exposure;
Author Keywords: adverse outcome pathway; exposome; firefighter; JP-8 jet fuel; PAHs; benzene; heatmap
Joachim D. Pleil, HEASD/NERL/ORD (D205-05), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, USA
Journal of Breath Research