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.
- Firefighter health surveillance
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry
- Environmental Science(all)
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis