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Asbestos, Lead and Other Exposure Hazards Encountered by Firefighters and Fire Damage Cleanup Crews

Clark Seif Clark provides industrial hygiene and environmental services to identify and mitigate exposure risks associated with building fires and the debris left behind.

Chatsworth, CA – WEBWIRE

Firefighters can be exposed to numerous compounds of concern in the form of gases, vapors, liquids and particulates.

Firefighters play a crucial role in protecting public safety and the property of people, businesses and institutions. Responding to fires and emergencies, their work can be dangerous and these dangers can include more than just flames and extreme heat.

Building fires could also expose firefighters to a number of hazardous substances. For example, the Board of Health in Orange, Massachusetts recently released a public health announcement following a large fire in an old factory. In it, people were warned that asbestos was known to be in the factory and that testing of fire debris was also positive for its presence.

Back in 2013, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published the results of a large study of firefighters from three major U.S. cities. It found the population of firefighters in the study had a rate of mesothelioma, which is caused by exposure to asbestos, two times greater than the rate in the rest of the U.S. population.

“Firefighters can be exposed to numerous compounds of concern in the form of gases, vapors, liquids and particulates. Some of these chemical substances are known, or suspected to, cause cancer,” said Derrick A. Denis, Vice President of Indoor Environmental Quality for Clark Seif Clark (CSC). “Some hazards originate from the compromise of vessels containing hazards stored on site, like the melting of a bottle of pesticides or disinfectants. Some hazards are created as byproducts of combustion or burning, such as carbon monoxide. The liberation of hazardous building materials can also endanger firefighters, such as asbestos fibers, mercury or lead. Cleanup crews, investigators, demolition contractors and construction professionals sent in after a fire are also at risk for exposure. The job hazard analysis (JHA) should account for these and other hazards at a structure fire site. Carefully planned and implemented mitigation efforts should be applied, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and decontamination procedures to keep folks safe at the site and to prevent them from bringing these hazards home.”

Even for those firefighters wearing protective clothing, known as turnout gear, if it is not properly cleaned or stored after a fire or training event, any chemicals or substances on the gear or equipment could contaminate vehicles and the fire station. Later, reusing dirty turnout gear or respiratory protection could again result in exposure to hazardous substances. These exposures can occur by skin contact with contaminated PPE or by breathing in or ingesting particles from contaminated gear.

Helping to protect firefighters and workers are the building science, industrial hygiene and environmental professionals at CSC. They provide testing, consulting and training services to identify and mitigate exposure risks associated with building fires. CSC also recently sponsored an educational video about firefighters and occupational exposure risks to dermal and respirable hazards that can be seen at:

To learn more about this or other building science, industrial hygiene, environmental, health and safety services, please visit, email or call (800) 807-1118.

About Clark Seif Clark
CSC was established in 1989 to help clients in both public and private sectors address indoor air quality, occupational, environmental, and health and safety (EH&S) issues. CSC is a leading provider of these services with multiple offices along the western seaboard and southwest. The company believes in science-based protocols and has a strong background in engineering, making them the preferred environmental consultants to industrial clients, healthcare facilities, architects, schools, builders, contractors, developers and real estate professionals.

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 Industrial Hygiene
 Occupational Health
 Occupational Safety

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