IEETA/CESAM researchers found that smoke from forest fires severely affects firefighter's health
Published in 26/7/2019
Respiratory and circulatory problems are just some of the health problems that affect firefighters in forest fire fighting scenarios. Research from the University of Aveiro (UA), which for the first time monitored the vital signs of firefighters in experimental fire scenarios, points out that frequent and prolonged exposure to high levels of pollutant concentration during firefighting can lead to acute health problems or long-term health problems.
Some of these problems "may appear quickly, such as acute and instant eye eruptions, nose and throat irritation, and shortness of breath". These are symptoms that "usually develop into headaches, dizziness and nausea and may last for several hours".
During firefighting, firefighters are especially exposed to pollutants that are inhaled, affecting their respiratory system. Indeed, “frequent and prolonged exposure to high levels of pollutant concentrations during forest fire fighting can lead to acute or long-term health problems”. There is also “decreased lung function, which may result in slightly decreased respiratory capacity, respiratory tract constriction and small airway hypersensitivity”.
In addition to these symptoms, and according to the US National Fire Protection Association, most of the firefighter´s deaths are due to inhalation of pollutants in the smoke.
The pioneering work monitored firefighter´s heart rates and their exposure to carbon monoxide in different firefighting scenarios. Measurements made it possible to verify situations of fire exposure to high carbon monoxide levels, as well as changes in heart rate associated with peak exposure values for this gas of great toxicity to human health.
“Although further studies are needed, the results suggest that firefighter´s heart rates react to variations in exposure to gases such as carbon monoxide, and that the location of the firefighter in relation to fire and smoke may be relevant as regards the effects of gas inhalation”.