IAFF Report Examines Firefighter Lung Diseases
"Respiratory Diseases and the Fire Service" addresses smoking, pulmonary function testing, World Trade Center responders' respiratory diseases, disaster-related infections, and much more.
A major report published Wednesday by the U.S. Fire Administration and the International Association of Fire Fighters analyzes the range of respiratory diseases affecting firefighters, with chapters written by experts in the field from medical schools, fire departments, and health departments. Eleven of the report's credited technical reviewers are NIOSH experts.
The "Respiratory Diseases and the Fire Service" report addresses smoking, pulmonary function testing, World Trade Center responders' respiratory diseases, disaster-related infections, asthma, COPD, tuberculosis, lung cancer, inhalation injuries, asbestos, sleep apnea, and more. It summarizes the findings of a long-term study to improve firefighters' occupational health. "USFA is committed to enhancing the occupational health and safety of America's fire service," said Acting U.S. Fire Administrator Glenn Gaines. "The purpose of this initiative is to provide information to the fire service on the mitigation of the long-term effects of occupational respiratory exposure."
“Respiratory diseases remain a significant health issue for firefighters and other emergency responders," added IAFF General President Harold A. Schaitberger. "Respiratory effects due to firefighter occupational exposure are a concern affecting the fire service throughout the United States."
One of the report's three editors is Dr. David Prezant, MD, professor of medicine in the pulmonary division of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and co-director of WTC Medical Programs for the Fire Department City of New York. Prezant co-wrote chapter 3-5, "World Trade Center Respiratory Diseases," with Dr. Kerry Kelly, co-director of WTC Medical Programs; Dr. Stephen M. Levin, associate professor of medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Dr. Michael Weiden, associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and medical officer for the WTC program; and Dr. Thomas K. Aldrich, professor of medicine in the pulmonary division at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. By 2009, they write, more than 1,000 FDNY members had qualified for permanent respiratory disability benefits based on exposures to dust, fumes, and gases at the WTC site. A high percentage of those exposed to the dust cloud following the buildings' collapse in September 2001 -- including police officers, ironworkers, transit workers, cleanup workers, and residents in the area -- also reported upper and lower respiratory symptoms months afterward, they report.
The authors of chapter 2-9 on firefighter cancers, Dr. Adrienne Flowers of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Dr. Melissa A. McDiarmid, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and director of the University of Maryland Occupational Health Program, say the best prevention practices are not to smoke and not be exposed to secondhand smoke. "Another important prevention practice to avoid exposure to cancer-causing agents generally is to be vigilant about use of SCBA," they add. "This is true not only during the active stages of fire suppression, but also during overhaul when some chemicals of combustion may be present at concentrations as high or even higher than during the active firefighting phase."
They also suggest following NFPA requirements for controlling/capturing diesel exhaust, which is carcinogenic, at firehouses to prevent exposure.