Impact of Fire Suit Ensembles on Firefighter PAH Exposures
The results from correlation studies indicated that dermal uptake was a major route of exposure in accordance with previous findings
Research by HÃ¥kan Wingfors, Jenny Rattfelt Nyholm, Roger Magnusson, Cecilia Hammar Wijkmark
Over the past 10 years, a number of safety measures for reducing firefighters' exposure to combustion particles have been introduced in Sweden. The most important measure was the reduction in the time firefighters wear suits and handle contaminated equipment after turn-outs involving smoke diving. This study was divided into two parts, those being to investigate the level of protection obtained by multiple garment layers and to assess exposure during a standardized smoke diving exercise.
First, realistic work protection factors (WPFs) were calculated by comparing air concentrations of the full suite of gaseous and particle-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) inside and outside structural ensembles, including jacket and thick base layer, during a tough fire extinguishing exercise using wood as the fuel. Second, during a standardized smoke diving exercise, exposure was assessed by measuring PAH skin deposition and levels of eight urinary PAH metabolites in 20 volunteer student firefighters before and after the exercise. The average WPF for the sum of 22 PAHs was 146 ± 33 suggesting a relatively high protective capacity but also indicating a substantial enrichment of contaminants with a risk of prolonged dermal exposure. Accordingly, in the second exercise, the median levels of skin-deposited Î£14-PAHs and urinary 1-hydroxypyrene significantly increased 5-fold (21 to 99 ng/wipe) and 8-fold (0.14 to 1.1 Âµmol molâˆ’1 creatinine), respectively, post exposure.
Among the PAH metabolites investigated, 1-hydroxypyrene proved to be the most useful indicator of exposure, with significantly elevated urinary levels at both 6 h and 20 h after the exercise and with the strongest correlation to dermal exposure. Metabolites from two-ring and three-ring PAHs were eliminated faster while levels of 3-hydroxy-benzo[a]pyrene did not meet the detection criteria. The results from correlation studies indicated that dermal uptake was a major route of exposure in accordance with previous findings.
To summarize, this study shows that some of the newly adopted protective measures were correctly implemented, and should continue to be followed and be more widely adopted.