Assessment of health effects in New York City firefighters after exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs): The Staten Island transformer fire health surveillance project

Kerry J. Kelly, Edmond Connelly, Gustave A. Reinhold, Mike Byrne, David J. Prezant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Following an electrical transformer fire in Staten Island, New York, a health surveillance program was established for 60 New York City firefighters and emergency medical technicians exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs). Exposure potential was documented after high levels of PCBs and PCDFs were found on transformer and firefighters' uniforms. Personnel received comprehensive medical examinations, and the results were compared with preexposure values. Serum was analyzed for PCBs, PCDFs, and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs). Follow-up was conducted 9 mo later. Thirty-two of 58 (55%) firefighters reported initial symptoms, and 3 firefighters required brief medical leave. Pulmonary functions, exercise performance, serum liver functions, and serum lipid profiles were normal or unchanged from preexposure baselines. Serum PCBs averaged 2.92 + 1.96 ppb (range = 1.9-11.0 ppb). Five (8%) had serum PCBs that were greater than or equal to 6 ppb. Eight (73%) had a significant decrease (p = .05) in serum PCB level at the time of follow-up. Serum toxic equivalency (TEQ [1998 World Health Organization]) for total PCDDs and PCDFs averaged 39.0 + 21.5 (n = 48). Eighteen (38%) had elevated TEQs (i.e., > 40). All firefighters had no short-term heath effects. Modern firefighting uniforms are not meant to replace HAZMAT suits, but these uniforms provide protection from this chemical exposure for most firefighters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)282-293
Number of pages12
JournalArchives of Environmental Health
Volume57
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2002

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Firefighters
Polychlorinated Biphenyls
PCDF
Islands
serum
PCB
Fires
Health
Serum
dioxin
Emergency Medical Technicians
Poisons
Liver
World Health Organization
Polychlorinated Dibenzofurans
exposure
effect
health
city
surveillance

Keywords

  • Dioxins
  • Firefighter health surveillance
  • PCBs
  • PCDFs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Cite this

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title = "Assessment of health effects in New York City firefighters after exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs): The Staten Island transformer fire health surveillance project",
abstract = "Following an electrical transformer fire in Staten Island, New York, a health surveillance program was established for 60 New York City firefighters and emergency medical technicians exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs). Exposure potential was documented after high levels of PCBs and PCDFs were found on transformer and firefighters' uniforms. Personnel received comprehensive medical examinations, and the results were compared with preexposure values. Serum was analyzed for PCBs, PCDFs, and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs). Follow-up was conducted 9 mo later. Thirty-two of 58 (55{\%}) firefighters reported initial symptoms, and 3 firefighters required brief medical leave. Pulmonary functions, exercise performance, serum liver functions, and serum lipid profiles were normal or unchanged from preexposure baselines. Serum PCBs averaged 2.92 + 1.96 ppb (range = 1.9-11.0 ppb). Five (8{\%}) had serum PCBs that were greater than or equal to 6 ppb. Eight (73{\%}) had a significant decrease (p = .05) in serum PCB level at the time of follow-up. Serum toxic equivalency (TEQ [1998 World Health Organization]) for total PCDDs and PCDFs averaged 39.0 + 21.5 (n = 48). Eighteen (38{\%}) had elevated TEQs (i.e., > 40). All firefighters had no short-term heath effects. Modern firefighting uniforms are not meant to replace HAZMAT suits, but these uniforms provide protection from this chemical exposure for most firefighters.",
keywords = "Dioxins, Firefighter health surveillance, PCBs, PCDFs",
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N2 - Following an electrical transformer fire in Staten Island, New York, a health surveillance program was established for 60 New York City firefighters and emergency medical technicians exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs). Exposure potential was documented after high levels of PCBs and PCDFs were found on transformer and firefighters' uniforms. Personnel received comprehensive medical examinations, and the results were compared with preexposure values. Serum was analyzed for PCBs, PCDFs, and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs). Follow-up was conducted 9 mo later. Thirty-two of 58 (55%) firefighters reported initial symptoms, and 3 firefighters required brief medical leave. Pulmonary functions, exercise performance, serum liver functions, and serum lipid profiles were normal or unchanged from preexposure baselines. Serum PCBs averaged 2.92 + 1.96 ppb (range = 1.9-11.0 ppb). Five (8%) had serum PCBs that were greater than or equal to 6 ppb. Eight (73%) had a significant decrease (p = .05) in serum PCB level at the time of follow-up. Serum toxic equivalency (TEQ [1998 World Health Organization]) for total PCDDs and PCDFs averaged 39.0 + 21.5 (n = 48). Eighteen (38%) had elevated TEQs (i.e., > 40). All firefighters had no short-term heath effects. Modern firefighting uniforms are not meant to replace HAZMAT suits, but these uniforms provide protection from this chemical exposure for most firefighters.

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