AUTHOR: Sreenivasan Ranganathan

Burning building

Register to attend the free Research Foundation webinar on environmental impact of fire: characterization of emission factors

The Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA, will be hosting its next webinar on Wednesday, May 18 on “Environmental impact of fire: Characterization of emission factors.” With the increase in human population and the as new levels of contamination of scarce resources are revealed, the concern for the health of the natural environment is growing. Current efforts to improve the sustainability of buildings focus on increasing energy efficiency and reducing embodied carbon. This strategy overlooks the fact that a fire event could reduce the overall sustainability of a building through the release of pollutants and the environmental impact of the subsequent rebuild. Most fires occurring in the built environment contribute to air contamination from the fire plume (whose deposition is likely to subsequently include land and water contamination), contamination from water runoff containing toxic products, and other environmental discharges or releases from burned materials. In 2020, the Fire Protection Research Foundation undertook a study that developed a research road map identifying research needs to be able to quantify the environmental impact of fire from the built environment and its economic consequences, where lack of relevant data concerning emissions was identified as one of several pressing needs. In the wake of the development of the research road map, the Fire Protection Research Foundation initiated a follow up research to develop a database of existing emission factors (EFs) for a range of fire conditions and the development of some new EFs for building materials. This webinar will discuss the research roadmap and the emission factors database, including an assessment of scaling between small-scale and large-scale data measurement. Prof. Margaret McNamee of Lund University, Sweden, and Dr. Benjamin Truchot of National Institute for Industrial Environment and Risks (Ineris), France, will lead this webinar discussion. Registration is free and required to attend; register by clicking the direct link or by visiting www.nfpa.org/webinars for more upcoming FPRF webinars and watch on-demand archived research webinars. This webinar is supported by the Research Foundation 2022 Webinar Series Sponsors: American Wood Council, AXA XL Risk Consulting, FM Global, Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co., Inc., Telgian Engineering and Consulting, The Zurich Services Corporation. Did you know the Research Foundation is celebrating its 40th year in existence in 2022. Read this NFPA Journal article to learn more about this noteworthy milestone.

“The Long-Term Effects of COVID-19 on Firefighter Health:” Access the webinar and provide experiential input via a quick research survey

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely changed the lives and well-being of everyone globally. As the pandemic has progressed, clinicians and scientists have become increasingly alarmed with what has been termed as “Long COVID” or “COVID-LONG” – continued symptoms of COVID-19 that last three weeks or more after the diagnosis. Firefighters and EMS personnel are at the frontline of emergency response, and they are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, specifically when responding to emergency medical calls from infected public citizens as well as through various other exposure pathways. The NFPA "Firefighter Fatalities in the US in 2020" report indicates that in 2020, more firefighters died from COVID-19 in the U.S. than any other line-of-duty death cause. Firefighters are always in high-risk environments performing the most physically demanding job, but “Long COVID” is creating apprehension in the fire service these days. The good news is that a new FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) is currently supporting research looking into the long-term health effects of COVID-19 and how the fire service can comprehend and manage the risks from the pandemic and safeguard firefighter health and safety. The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), the research affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), is a project partner for this research effort titled, “Continuing the Fight Against COVID Together (C-FACT). The research is being led by Dr. Denise Smith from Skidmore College and Dr. Sara Jahnke from the Center for Fire, Rescue & EMS Health Research in partnership with Dr. Steven Moffat, an occupational medicine physician from Indianapolis and multiple fire departments. During the recent FPRF “The Long-Term Effects of COVID-19 on Firefighter Health” webinar, Dr. Smith and Dr. Jahnke provided scientific information on the risks of COVID-LONG, Dr. Moffat spoke about the challenges faced by firefighters as they return to duty following COVID infection, and retired Fire Chief Haigh shared perspective on dealing with firefighters who may suffer long-term symptoms that could interfere with work or increased risk of health-related issues. The webinar recording is available on demand here. This two-year research study requires critical input from the fire service. The research entails the collection of information from members of the fire service about their experiences with COVID-LONG. All firefighters are invited to participate in this survey. Participation in the survey is voluntary; it is estimated that the web-based survey will take less than 10 minutes to complete. Thank you, in advance, for your valued participation. 
Firefighter PPE
Firefighter at a scene with a lot of smoke

Fire Protection Research Foundation publishes a literature review report on firefighter exposure to fireground carcinogens

The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), the research affiliate of NFPA, recently published a comprehensive literature review research report on the “Fireground Exposure of Firefighters.” The objective of the project was to assimilate the existing peer reviewed literature into a framework to understand the matrix of carcinogen exposure risks that firefighters face while performing their job tasks on the fireground. This examination focused specifically on carcinogenic exposure on the fireground, and the final report from this study can be found on the FPRF website. Research on the epidemiologic relationship between cancer and firefighting has been a focus of several recent cohorts and meta-analytic studies in the last decade. While the overall cancer risk among firefighters is estimated to be around 9-14% higher, as compared to the general population, the increased risk for individual cancers is often much higher and firefighters have been found to develop cancer at a younger age than the general population. Ongoing long-term efforts such as the prospective multicenter Fire Fighter Cancer Cohort Study (www.ffccs.org/) and the National Firefighter Registry (NIOSH, 2020) dive deeper into the  relationships between exposure and risk with more detail. Beyond cancer, exposure on the fireground has also spurred other health implications including cardiovascular, respiratory, and reproductive challenges for both female and male firefighters. A wide variety of exposure studies have been published in the last decade with many examining known and suspected carcinogens present on the fireground. Studies vary significantly in terms of data collection methods (e.g., biological sampling, active or passive air sampling, personal sampling devices such as a silicone dosimeter), type of incident (e.g., wildland fire, room and contents fire, training, vehicle fire, hazmat incident), and locations. Some look at regional differences as building materials vary both by locale and time of construction (e.g., legacy vs. modern construction). Understanding the nuances of exposures and risk in the literature will help to inform prevention and intervention efforts for firefighters. Given the significant growth in research on this topic, FPRF contractedthe Centre for Fire, Rescue, & EMS Health Research, NDRI Ventures, led by Dr. Sara Jahnke and her team, to conduct a systematic review of existing literature. The objective was to outline the current state of the science, summarize the findings, and identify gaps in the literature. A total of 75 articles (with about 68% being conducted in the last decade) were finally identified in the analysis. This number was arrived at after screening a larger number of articles using the inclusion criteria established for this project scope. Eligible articles included: any peer-reviewed published journal article that reported specific chemicals (or groups of chemicals) in body fluids (blood, urine, semen, and breastmilk) or monitored in the air attributed to fire smoke exposure. Only carcinogenic chemical exposures specific to the fireground were included. Each study reviewed had one set of study level variables that were applied and tabulated to both biomonitoring and environmental monitoring. Within each category, tables are grouped by International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) chemical classification. Group 1 chemicals are defined by IARC as “carcinogenic to humans.” Group 2A are “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Group 2B are “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and Group 3 are “not classifiable as to their carcinogenicity to humans.” For biomonitoring studies, significant gaps were identified for fire instructors, fire investigators, aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) firefighters, industrial firefighters, and recruits. It was also noted that future research should focus on examining the impact of the changing fire environment as the products of combustion in fires have evolved over the years. The gap analysis identified several areas of needed research within environmental monitoring including studies of carcinogens through wildland fires, exposures through electrical/transformer fires, ARFF exposures, and training fires. Additional research by type of data collection such as through gear samples and passive sampling devices was also identified as a need. Finally, it was determined that additional research on major events is needed through real-time environmental monitoring. This project report provides a strong foundation for the ongoing work that is being done to understand what firefighters are exposed to on the fireground.  It will serve as a valuable resource as IARC reevaluates the risks of firefighting, for groups fighting for cancer presumption, and for researchers identifying gaps in the literature. Clearly, the fireground, by its very nature, is a high-risk environment with a number of carcinogenic exposures for any responder on the scene. Understanding these risks is an important foundation for understanding health and environmental impacts and for identifying and promoting mitigation and prevention efforts.
Green buildings

Research Foundation webinar on “Fire Safety Challenges of ‘Green’ Buildings and Attributes”

In 2012, the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) published a literature review related to fire safety challenges of ‘green’ (sustainable) building materials, systems (technologies) and features. The aim of that work was to: identify documented fire incidents in ‘green’ buildings define a specific set of elements in ‘green’ building design, including configuration and materials, which, without mitigating strategies, increase fire risk, decrease safety or decrease building performance in comparison with ‘traditional’ construction identify and summarize existing best practice case studies in which the risk introduced by specific ‘green’ building design elements has been explicitly addressed and compile research studies related to incorporating building safety, life safety and fire safety as an explicit element in ‘green’ building indices, identifying gaps and specific needed research areas. Since 2012, there have been several major fire events, which involved ‘green’ materials, systems, and features (collectively, ‘green’ attributes) in buildings. Green design features have been associated with photovoltaic panels and roof materials, lightweight timber frame buildings, and combustible insulation materials. This webinar will present highlights from a comprehensive information review of how the landscape of fire safety challenges associated with “green” attributes of buildings has developed since 2012. It is based on a global information search into the following: fire events involving “green” and/or sustainable building materials, systems, and features emerging “green” building materials, systems, and features and research, regulatory changes, engineering approaches, risk mitigation strategies, and firefighting tactics associated with fire challenges with “green” and/or sustainable building materials, systems, and features. While the research is comprehensive in scope, it is not exhaustive in detail, given the extent of advancement in these areas that has occurred since 2012. And, while significant advancements have been made, gaps remain, and strategies for proactively incorporating fire performance into the development of new “green” building materials, systems, and features (product development) are lacking; the tools to proactively assess the fire performance of “green” building materials, systems, and features at the product level (e.g., fire performance testing), and as installed in buildings, are lacking; and a broader building regulatory framework and design philosophy for achieving sustainable and fire resilient (SAFR) buildings are also lacking. The final report from the most recent research effort is available here. Register for this webinar today. Visit www.nfpa.org/webinars for more upcoming NFPA & FPRF webinars and archives. When: Wednesday, April 14, 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Presenters: Brian Meacham, PhD, PE, Meacham Associates, and Margaret McNamee, PhD, Lund University.  This webinar is supported by the Research Foundation 2021 Webinar Series Sponsors: APA – The Engineered Wood Association AXA XL Risk Consulting Johnson Controls Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co., Inc. Telgian Engineering and Consulting The Zurich Services Corporation

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