Characterizing exposure to benzene, toluene, and naphthalene in firefighters wearing different types of new or laundered PPE
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Characterizing exposure to benzene, toluene, and naphthalene in firefighters wearing different types of new or laundered PPE

Filetype[PDF-345.54 KB]

  • English

  • Details:

    • Alternative Title:
      Int J Hyg Environ Health
    • Description:
      The fire service has become more aware of the potential for adverse health outcomes due to occupational exposure to hazardous combustion byproducts. Because of these concerns, personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers have developed new protection concepts like particulate-blocking hoods to reduce firefighters' exposures. Additionally, fire departments have implemented exposure reduction interventions like routine laundering of PPE after fire responses. This study utilized a fireground exposure simulator (FES) with 24 firefighters performing firefighting activities on three consecutive days wearing one of three PPE ensembles (stratified by hood design and treatment of PPE): 1) new knit hood, new turnout jacket and new turnout pants 2) new particulate-blocking hood, new turnout jacket and new turnout pants or 3) laundered particulate-blocking hood, laundered turnout jacket and laundered turnout pants. As firefighters performed the firefighting activities, personal air sampling on the outside and inside the turnout jacket was conducted to quantify exposures to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and naphthalene. Pre- and immediately post-fire exhaled breath samples were collected to characterize the absorption of VOCs. Benzene, toluene, and naphthalene were found to diffuse through and/or around the turnout jacket, as inside jacket benzene concentrations were often near levels reported outside the turnout jacket (9.7-11.7% median benzene reduction from outside the jacket to inside the jacket). The PPE ensemble did not appear to affect the level of contamination found inside the jacket for the compounds evaluated here. Benzene concentrations in exhaled breath increased significantly from pre to post-fire for all three groups (p-values < 0.05). The difference of pre-to post-fire benzene exhaled breath concentrations were positively associated with inside jacket and outside jacket benzene concentrations, even though self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) were worn during each response. This suggests the firefighters can absorb these compounds via the dermal route.
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