Decrease Of Firefighters’ Lung Function Across Work Seasons

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The pulmonary system has always been a vital element of the human body. It is of high importance in maintaining proper oxygenation of our tissues and cells. However, we cannot take away the fact that it is also highly vulnerable. Studies have been conducted to look into factors that may present danger to lung function. The researchers from the University of Georgia discovered that lung function declines with successive days of smoke and particulate matter exposure, after they monitored firefighters who work at prescribed burns in Southeastern U.S.

Olorunfemi Adetona, author of the study written in the Inhalation Toxicology Journal, stated that they observed a reduced lung function among firefighters across work seasons. Moreover, UGA College of Public Health Associate Professor Luke Naeher elaborated that the investigation aimed to determine if the 26 firefighters had a decline in respiratory function as they worked at prescribed burns in comparison to days they were not exposed to the fires. Investigators before studied only the changes in respiratory function of wildland firefighters during days when they had smoke exposure.

According to Naeher, the workers’ lung functions gradually decreased over a ten week period. He emphasized the necessity to study the level on which these declines go back to the baseline after the burn season.  Findings of the study revealed that respiratory function did not significantly vary among the nine workers in 2003 and 2004, at the start of two burn seasons. However, a different research design is needed to find reliable answers regarding the long term impact of burn exposure on lung function.

The United States Forest Service intends to have a clearer picture and improvement in the context of occupational exposure limits for firefighters in the country. The current study was concentrated with Southeastern States fires. On the other hand, the focus of studies in the recent years has been burns from the Western States, where the composition of and degree of exposure to wood-smoke particulate matter may differ.

Some useful initial information has already been gathered about the effects on health of fine particulate matter exposure, which is intermediate between two exposure extremes. Many studies have been conducted about the health effects at both extremes. Specifically, the low extreme lie ambient air levels present in developed countries, whereas, the opposite extreme is the inhalation of particles by a smoker.

There are still limited studies about intermediate levels exposure, which are commonly experienced by firefighters and women/children in developing countries who are exposed to indoor air pollution (from cook stoves). Naeher stressed how critical it is to determine the various health impacts of intermediate exposures, to preserve and optimize health.




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