Fire fighters are routinely exposed to conditions that would be lethal to an unprotected individual. Common products of combustion (POCs) include acrolein, benzene, carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulates. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends a protection factor (PF) of 10,000 for the pressure-demand, self-contained breathing apparatus respirators used by fire fighters. Actual PFs are not well characterized and are probably lower than 10,000. Standard risk assessment techniques were used to determine the minimum PF needed to protect fire fighters from both acute and chronic intermittent exposures to POCs. Tucson, Arizona, fire fighter statistics were used to determine an average daily exposure duration. Concentrations of POCs measured in structural fires were used to determine average and maximum exposure levels. American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists threshold limit value (TLV) short-term exposure limit, American Industrial Hygiene Association emergency response planning guideline-2, and National Research Council emergency exposure guidance level (EEGL) concentrations were used as reference levels to determine necessary PFs for short-term exposures. Environmental Protection Agency daily reference concentration, carcinogenicity slope factor, and National Ambient Air Quality Standard concentrations were used as reference levels for chronic exposures. For short-term exposures, using a TLV-excursion value for carbon monoxide, the necessary PF was 360. Using the EEGL levels, the highest required PF was 2000 for acrolein. For chronic intermittent exposures, the highest required PF was 1050 for acrolein. The NIOSH recommended PF of 10,000 is more than adequate to provide protection against documented levels of the common POCs. Both short-term and chronic intermittent exposures to POCs must be considered when evaluating fire fighter exposure to POC.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health