Assessment of Ambient Exposures Firefighters Encounter While at the Fire Station: An Exploratory Study
Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Firefighters have dangerous jobs. They’re the ones running into the burning buildings as we run away. And they face high risks of injuries and illnesses because of this job. However, while our images of firefighters and associated risks typically focuses on the fire itself, potential health hazards don’t stop when they return to the firehouse.
Most previous research on firefighter health—both on documenting exposures and possible prevention strategies—has focused on fires, and does not account for additional adverse exposures at firehouses. Firefighters spend large portions of shifts waiting for calls, where they can be exposed to pollutants such as diesel exhaust from idling trucks and off-gassing from contaminated post-fire gear. Studies in other industries have demonstrated links between the indoor environment and various health outcomes, yet little work has taken place at firehouses.
The Firehouses for Health team within are conducting research that aims to investigate firehouse adverse exposures and the potential link with cancer. They are currently working on a study that aims to quantify environmental exposures at firehouses in Boston, as well as cities and towns throughout the state of Massachusetts.