About this Research Topic

Abstract Submission Deadline 27 October 2022
Manuscript Submission Deadline 13 January 2023

Toxic chemicals, either from fire ground combustion, contaminated PPE, or off-gassing from PPE material and chemical finishing have become the leading concern for the long-term health of firefighters. Exposure to fine smoke particles and toxic chemicals released from fire scenes can result in cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other pathological diseases, and minimizing this exposure has become a health priority for the firefighter. Firefighters face exposure to smoke at fire grounds and to contaminants in fire stations, vehicles, and even their homes because of resuspended fine particles or released volatile chemicals from contaminated PPE.

Firefighter exposure to smoke, chemicals, and contaminated PPE or off-gassing from PPE is highly complex and specific, e.g., contaminants interacting with PPE systems involve various physical, mechanical, and chemical mechanisms (e.g., absorption, penetration, bonding, resuspension).

Fireground smoke contains a large number of toxic substrates, in the forms of suspended liquids, particles, gases, and vapors resulting from the combustion or pyrolysis of material. The widespread use of synthetic polymers in modern buildings and furniture has led to increased production of particles and toxic chemicals, including carcinogens such as SVOCs (e.g., PAHs), VOCs (e.g., Benzene), and phthalates. Moreover, fine particles containing PAHs can be retained on or trapped in the PPE system, and can easily enter the interface between PPE components during firefighting and spread to the human body or surrounding environment during doffing. Cross-contamination on PPE components was also found in maintenance processes (e.g., laundering). Therefore, in addition to fire ground exposure, the exposure to contaminated PPE and improperly-cleaned PPE pose a high risk of inhalation and dermal absorption of carcinogens and other toxicants. BETXs (Benzene, Ethylbenzene, Toluene, and Xylene) and formaldehyde are the most common VOCs that exist in fire scenes. Heavy metals as special contaminants are combustion products from specific items containing heavy metals (e.g. electroplate materials). They can be detected at both fire scenes and on firefighter PPE, and cause negative health outcomes. Heavy metals usually contained in fine particles can be inhaled, ingested, or bound/absorbed to skin and surfaces. Dermal absorption of heavy metals by firefighters can occur through touching contaminated turnout gear, whereas airborne particulate-bound metals can be inhaled. Currently, an additional concern is raised on the effect of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from aqueous film-forming foams and manufactured PPE (i.e., fluorinated treatment) on firefighter exposure. The PFAS are stable in the environment and soluble in water and will shed from contaminated PPE to the surrounding environment like a fire station.

The Research Topic aims to promote understanding of carcinogens as a hazard source, interaction with PPE systems and firefighters, as well as approach for decontamination, and prevention.
• Mechanisms of contamination, decontamination, and prevention
• Smoke chemicals, and Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) characterization, these hazard surrogate study and PPE contamination
• Decontamination and effectiveness
• Interaction with PPE system and effects on firefighter safety and health
• New technology for understanding and prevention
• Applications, control measures study

Keywords: Challenges and Emerging Issues on Firefighter’s Toxic Chemical Exposure: Smoke Chemicals, Contaminated PPE, and Off-gassing


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Toxic chemicals, either from fire ground combustion, contaminated PPE, or off-gassing from PPE material and chemical finishing have become the leading concern for the long-term health of firefighters. Exposure to fine smoke particles and toxic chemicals released from fire scenes can result in cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other pathological diseases, and minimizing this exposure has become a health priority for the firefighter. Firefighters face exposure to smoke at fire grounds and to contaminants in fire stations, vehicles, and even their homes because of resuspended fine particles or released volatile chemicals from contaminated PPE.

Firefighter exposure to smoke, chemicals, and contaminated PPE or off-gassing from PPE is highly complex and specific, e.g., contaminants interacting with PPE systems involve various physical, mechanical, and chemical mechanisms (e.g., absorption, penetration, bonding, resuspension).

Fireground smoke contains a large number of toxic substrates, in the forms of suspended liquids, particles, gases, and vapors resulting from the combustion or pyrolysis of material. The widespread use of synthetic polymers in modern buildings and furniture has led to increased production of particles and toxic chemicals, including carcinogens such as SVOCs (e.g., PAHs), VOCs (e.g., Benzene), and phthalates. Moreover, fine particles containing PAHs can be retained on or trapped in the PPE system, and can easily enter the interface between PPE components during firefighting and spread to the human body or surrounding environment during doffing. Cross-contamination on PPE components was also found in maintenance processes (e.g., laundering). Therefore, in addition to fire ground exposure, the exposure to contaminated PPE and improperly-cleaned PPE pose a high risk of inhalation and dermal absorption of carcinogens and other toxicants. BETXs (Benzene, Ethylbenzene, Toluene, and Xylene) and formaldehyde are the most common VOCs that exist in fire scenes. Heavy metals as special contaminants are combustion products from specific items containing heavy metals (e.g. electroplate materials). They can be detected at both fire scenes and on firefighter PPE, and cause negative health outcomes. Heavy metals usually contained in fine particles can be inhaled, ingested, or bound/absorbed to skin and surfaces. Dermal absorption of heavy metals by firefighters can occur through touching contaminated turnout gear, whereas airborne particulate-bound metals can be inhaled. Currently, an additional concern is raised on the effect of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from aqueous film-forming foams and manufactured PPE (i.e., fluorinated treatment) on firefighter exposure. The PFAS are stable in the environment and soluble in water and will shed from contaminated PPE to the surrounding environment like a fire station.

The Research Topic aims to promote understanding of carcinogens as a hazard source, interaction with PPE systems and firefighters, as well as approach for decontamination, and prevention.
• Mechanisms of contamination, decontamination, and prevention
• Smoke chemicals, and Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) characterization, these hazard surrogate study and PPE contamination
• Decontamination and effectiveness
• Interaction with PPE system and effects on firefighter safety and health
• New technology for understanding and prevention
• Applications, control measures study

Keywords: Challenges and Emerging Issues on Firefighter’s Toxic Chemical Exposure: Smoke Chemicals, Contaminated PPE, and Off-gassing


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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