Firefighters and First Responders are exposed to dangerous toxins every day they are on the job. Toxins not only exist while fighting a fire or responding to a medical emergency, the very place they call home during their work shift poses a threat to their health and well-being.
In April 2013, the United States Firefighter Cancer Support Network invited a small group of experts to develop a white paper on cancer in the fire service. The group identified the types of cancers most prevalent. They also determined that signs of exposure to carcinogens were everywhere, including diesel exhaust present in the apparatus bays as well as living, sleeping, and eating quarters. Diesel Exhaust was declared a known carcinogen by the International Agency for Cancer Research in 2012. If fire departments are not utilizing a direct source capture exhaust removal system, they are putting their personnel at serious risk.
Health concerns about diesel exhaust relate not only to cancer, but also to other health problems such as lung and heart diseases as stated by the American Cancer Society in 2015. Some of the substances in diesel exhaust, such as PAHs and carbon monoxide can also jeopardize a pregnancy and harm a developing baby if exposure is great enough.
As awareness of the health risks increase, agencies within the Fire Service are taking a stand to protect their brothers and sisters. Recently, The International Association of Fire Chiefs created a Healthcare Provider’s Guide to Firefighter Physicals. This is a document Firefighters can present to their physician that will assist in the evaluation, treatment, and ongoing surveillance of the health and wellness of firefighters. Click here to view the document. Healthcare Providers Guide to Firefighter Physicals.pdf
The International Association of Firefighters created guidelines on how to reduce exposure risk to carcinogens. At the top of the list was “Proper use of diesel exhaust containment systems”. IAFF President Harold Schaitberger was recently quoted as saying. “[It’s] a disease, referring to cancer, taking our members that are healthier than the majority of the population when they start their career, and killing them at a faster rate during their career – clearly a result of the toxic soot in which they do their business,”
The Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance hosted a 2017 September Symposium in Phoenix, Arizona. Presentations and workshops addressed current research, prevention strategies, and support for those affected by occupational cancer. Discussions included firefighter exposure to carcinogens that exist from the vehicles both inside the fire station as well as on the fire grounds (on-Scene). Diesel exhaust was a major concern.
Many states in the United States have laws establishing a presumption that certain types of cancer contracted by firefighters are the result of duty-related exposure. The law allows the families of firefighters who contract these types of cancer to receive compensation in various forms, including through enhanced retirement/pension benefits, workers compensation and/or death and disability benefits. The reality is firefighters have a greater risk of disease and death from occupational exposure to toxins, including diesel exhaust. The initiatives taken in the US should be a global model to develop standards and regulations pertaining to diesel exhaust.
In 2007 the US Environmental Protection Agency PA mandated that all over the road trucks be equipped with a DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter) that would reduce the amount of Nitrogen Oxides, and ozone depleting agents and particulate matter (PM). PM was reduced by 75%-80%. This was an initiative launched by the EPA to improve outdoor air quality only not taking into consideration running the diesel engine within a building or fire station. The extremely important need for a diesel exhaust removal system inside of the fire station remained the same.
In 2010 the EPA issued additional mandates that reduced the allowable amount of Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), even more. To achieve these lower limits and maintain EPA standard compliance a SCR (Selective Catalyst Reduction) was added that required DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) be added to heat the exhaust to temperatures that exceed 480° degrees F to achieve emission reduction. The time to heat the exhaust to the optimal temperature can range anywhere from 40 to 60 minutes. Emergency Response Vehicles rarely if ever operate at full speed for duration of 40 – 60 minutes.
Exhaust removal systems are still necessary for these newer vehicles also.
Since 2007 there has been a lot of misconception of what the new engines really do, how they work and how they relate to Emergency Response Vehicles.There is a noticeable reduction in the appearance of soot and therefore it would be the assumption these engines do not produce any harmful by products of diesel exhaust and do not require any type of additional diesel exhaust removal system. It is important to remember the new EPA standards were established to protect outdoor air quality by reducing Particulate Matter, but only 75-80%, and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx). The remaining Particulate Matter, Hydrocarbons and Carbon Monoxide are still present in the exhaust and must be mitigated. With the new SCR system, there is also a risk of Ammonia Slippage when the exhaust does not reach temperature to interact with the catalyst.
Prolonged exposure even at low concentrations can cause coughing, and nose and throat irritation along with fatigue according to the New York State Department of Health. These symptoms can impair a firefighter’s performance.
The most recent edition (2013) of the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) standard 1500 on Fire Department Occupation Safety and Health Program states “The Fire Departments shall prevent exposure to firefighters and contamination of living and sleeping areas to exhaust emissions:”
There are two types of direct source capture systems to choose from.
Direct-source capture system (vehicle/apparatus-mounted)
This system is installed directly on the vehicle/apparatus and is fully automatic. It does not require manual intervention from fire department personnel. There is a system available for both pre- 2007 engines and those built 2007 and later. It is important to remember exhaust removal is necessary for new pieces of apparatus and vehicles also.
Exposure to harmful toxins is still a serious health risk without something to remove the remaining Particulate Matter and gases that the newer Manufacturer’s Diesel Particulate Filter does not capture at cold start and low idle.
Since these systems are installed on the apparatus/vehicle there are no building modifications necessary. Building and electrical upgrades to install a station mounted system can become expensive, particularly in older stations. Vehicles can be rotated from bay to bay easily. Exhaust removal travels with the vehicle and protects the firefighter both inside and outside the station. One big advantage of this type of system is that it has capability of treating the exhaust on scene while the vehicle/apparatus is running for the longest duration while Firefighters are in close proximity to the tailpipe.
The University of Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI) Research Center in partnership with the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released an interim report on Cardiovascular & Chemical Exposure Risks in Modern Firefighting. They found that Firefighters were exposed to diesel exhaust, a known carcinogen, not only at the fire station but on the fire ground, while battling a fire. They studied air concentrations of contaminants measured in the fire ground and found diesel exhaust was the primary contributor to the particle counts that were well above background levels. Fire Engineers and Incident Commanders usually remain in close proximity to the running apparatus during and incident. Firefighters often rehab by sitting on the running board of the apparatus or bumper and those loading the hose are at high exposure risk. To view the complete report go to: ILStudyCardioChemRisksModernFF_InterimReport2016.pdf
Vehicle-mounted systems can be included in new apparatus specifications to be installed directly at the factory, dealer location or at the fire station once delivered.
This application provides a completely turn key solution for diesel exhaust removal. The system is ready to use as soon as your new truck is put into service or when installation is complete on your existing fleet.
The filters on the systems designed for pre-2007 engines will require routine filter changes. On average departments change the filters once every 2-4 years, keeping maintenance cost to a very minimum. The systems built for 2007 and later engines do not require filter changes and are virtually maintenance free.
Direct-source capture system (hoses)
This system is a fixed station mounted application.
A hose is connected to the tailpipe by either a pneumatic or magnetic nozzle. The hose travels along a sliding Track or Rail System installed on the ceiling and will disconnect once the vehicle has exited the station. After the hose disconnects it will retract into its original storage position.
Upon return to the station the hose is manually attached by a firefighter as the apparatus enters the building.
These types of systems will be designed according to the exact size and configuration of the specific vehicle’s exhaust system. This may require the exhaust tip to be modified for the hose to be able to connect to the exhaust system when the vehicle is in the fire station. Building modifications will also be necessary to accommodate the unique layout of each station. It may be necessary to install 3-Phase Power and Compressors that drive up the cost of installation. This system does rely on the due diligence of the firefighter to insure connection of the system every time.
In summary, it is no longer a question, do I need an exhaust removal system, but rather, what system will meet my department’s specific needs to fully protect our firefighters in every scenario both inside and outside of the fire station?
For more information, go to www.WardDiesel.com