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Spirometric Surveillance in Hazardous Materials Firefighters: Does Hazardous Materials Duty Affect Lung Function?

Kales, Stefanos N. MD, MPH; Mendoza, Pierre J. BA; Hill, Jeoff M. BA; Christiani, David C. MD, MPH, MS

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: December 2001 - Volume 43 - Issue 12 - p 1114-1120
Original Articles

We analyzed spirometry results for 351 male hazardous materials firefighters from 1996 to 1999 who underwent one or more annual medical surveillance/fitness for duty examinations: 276 (79%) technicians and 75 (21%) support members. Support members had a very limited potential for hazardous materials exposure and served as referents. In cross-sectional comparisons, the technicians’ average forced vital capacity and forced expiratory volume in 1 second were either statistically better or not significantly different from that of the support members at all four examinations. Longitudinally, no statistically significant differences were seen for forced vital capacity. The mean percent of predicted forced expiratory volume in 1 second decreased by 3% for technicians (P = 0.029), support controls (P = 0.433), and the total cohort (P = 0.014). Although respiratory irritants are the most common type of exposure in hazardous materials releases, the results suggest that hazardous materials technicians do not lose pulmonary function at a more accelerated rate than support team firefighters.

From the Cambridge Hospital, Cambridge (Dr Kales, Mr Mendoza, Mr Hill); Harvard Medical School (Dr Kales, Dr. Christiani), and Harvard School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health (Occupational Health Program) (Dr Kales, Dr Christiani); and the Pulmonary/Critical Care Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital; and the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Massachusetts Respiratory Hospital, Braintree (Dr Christiani).

Address correspondence to: Dr Stefanos N. Kales, Occupational Medicine, Department of Medicine, The Cambridge Hospital, 1493 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139;

Copyright © by American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.