Reducing airborne contaminant exposure with fireground tactics
Current Issues and Events - October 25, 2018

Many studies have identified cancer-causing risks that firefighters face through exposure to airborne contaminants and particulates on the fireground. A recent research project by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), UL and the University of Illinois specifically evaluated firefighters' level of exposure to pollutants at controlled residential fires based on both job assignment and suppression tactics.

Key Findings

    Fireground exposure to airborne contaminants will depend on your position relative to wind direction and the extent to which weather conditions dilute the smoke.

    Hydrogen cyanide (HCN) is lighter than air so it tends to concentrate more in the upper smoke layer. Outside vent firefighters may encounter significant exposure to HCN and other contaminants when opening windows or ventilating roofs.

    Protect yourself by wearing your SCBA during the entire response, including overhaul and outside ventilation activities.

    Establish command posts upwind of the structure. If this isn't possible, command personnel should wear respiratory protection.

Learn more about tactics to reduce exposure