Battling Flames Increases Firefighters’ Exposure to Carcinogens
Firefighters could be getting exposed to carcinogens through their skin, a new study found. Credit: TFoxFoto/Shutterstock.com.
The threat of getting burned by roaring flames is an obvious danger of firefighting, but other health risks are more subtle. For example, firefighters have been found to develop cancer at higher rates than the general population. Now researchers have measured how much firefighters' exposure to carcinogens and other harmful compounds increases when fighting fires. Their study, appearing in ACS' Environmental Science & Technology, also points to one possible way to reduce that exposure.
Based on a study of 30,000 firefighters in three cities, the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reported in 2013 that firefighters had higher rates of several kinds of cancer than the general population. The burning of wood, plastics, furniture, electronics and other building materials releases hazardous substances, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), into the air. Exposure to PAHs is of particular concern as the compounds can cause DNA mutations and are known carcinogens. But few studies have investigated firefighters' on-the-job exposure to PAHs and other combustion emissions. So Jules M. Blais and colleagues set out to get a clearer picture.
The researchers collected samples of urine and wiped the skin and clothing of more than two dozen firefighters in Ottawa before and after they responded to fires in 2015 and 2016. On average, post-fire levels of PAH metabolites in urine were 2.9 to 5.3 times higher than pre-fire levels. The average urinary mutagenicity — or the potential to cause genetic mutations — increased 4.3-fold. "There's a relationship between firefighters' urinary PAH metabolite levels and the levels of PAHs on their skin, which leads us to suspect that dermal contact may be an important route of exposure," says Jennifer Keir, an author on the study. The researchers conclude that skin decontamination immediately after fighting a fire could be one way to help reduce firefighters' exposure to these potentially cancer-causing compounds.
This article has been republished from materials provided by the American Chemical Society. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.
Elevated Exposures to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Other Organic Mutagens in Ottawa Firefighters Participating in Emergency, On-Shift Fire Suppression Jennifer L. A. Keir, Umme S. Akhtar, David M. J. Matschke, Tracy L. Kirkham, Hing Man Chan, Pierre Ayotte, Paul A. White, and Jules M. Blais DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b02850.
Quotient Sciences Acquires Pharmaterials, a UK-based Contract Development and Manufacturing OrganizationNews
Quotient Sciences, the drug development services organization, announces it has acquired Pharmaterials, a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) based in Reading, U.K..READ MORE
Simple Water Test Could Prevent Crippling Bone DiseaseNews
A simple colour-changing test to detect fluoride in drinking water, could in the future prevent the crippling bone disease, skeletal fluorosis, in developing countries such as India and Tanzania.READ MORE
Allergy Amplifier Implicated in Asthma Also Intensifies Food AllergyNews
Scientist who previously reported that a small protein, aptly named histamine-releasing factor, played a pro-inflammatory role in asthma have now shown that it also serves as a “food allergy amplifier”. This work paves the way for blood tests to predict which patients will respond to allergy therapy, and strongly supports the idea that drugs designed to block HRF could prevent food allergy attacks.READ MORE