Illinois Fire Service Institute


IFSI Research Center to study cardiovascular and cancer risks in fire service

(CHAMPAIGN, IL. May 26, 2015). The University of Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI) Research Center has begun a new project focusing on "Cardiovascular and Carcinogen Risks in Modern Firefighting". The study, in partnership with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), will provide the first rigorous scientific study to quantify acute physiological disruptions, including thermal and cardiac strain, and exposure to products of combustion, in response to working in a realistic modern fire environment.

According to Dr. Gavin Horn, Director for the IFSI Research Center, "Fighting fires exposes the human body to a large variety of environmental and physiological hazards, increasing the risk of occupational-related illness and death. Sudden cardiac events are the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths in the fire service and the primary acute health concern. On the other hand, cancer is a primary chronic health concern associated with firefighting."

The research, which is ultimately designed to aid the national discussion on "putting the firefighter back in service", will examine firefighter conditions for up to 12 hours post-firefighting activities, as well as the effectiveness of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gross on-scene decontamination. "The gross decon portion of the study will help us determine the effectiveness of these strategies to minimize secondary exposures from PPE off-gassing after a firefighter has removed their breathing apparatus," Dr. Horn added. This project addresses the most important health concerns of firefighters and does so in a way that ensures that the results are "directly" applicable to firefighters.

The IFSI Research program constructed a new live-fire research burn prop to simulate a modern single family home to conduct the research. The prop was structured after the ranch style home designed and used by the UL FSRI in their recent laboratory studies. Pilot testing is currently underway, with the 'live' data collection taking place in mid-June.

The Illinois Fire Service Institute Research Center is part of the statutory State Fire Academy for Illinois. In addition to training provided at its Champaign campus, the Institute offers one-day hands-on classes for fire departments at Regional Training Centers and local fire stations across the State. The mission of the Illinois Fire Service Institute is to help firefighters do their work through training, education, information and research.

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