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Statewide Firefighter Training At Wayne Township Fire Department Sheds Light On Hydrogen Cyanide and Lethal Toxicants in Everyday Fires

Hydrogen cyanide is THE most deadly toxicant in fire smoke not only for firefighters - but civilians.

"Using the GC/MS gave us an opportunity to look further into the smoke," said Rob Schnepp, Chief of Special Operations, Alameda (County) CA Fire Department.

    INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 21, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- The Fire Smoke Coalition will present a full day of training to firefighters throughout the state of Indiana that will conclude with a burn practical session will unequivocally prove hydrogen cyanide is in today's fire smoke and firefighters are being exposed to lethal toxicants; and, not just in big robust fires, but the little pan on the stove fire which is a routine run. This free training session will be held at the Wayne Township Fire Department on April 5, 2014.

What is known is that firefighter cancer, cardiac related illnesses and deaths, neurological problems and other chronic health problems are increasing - not decreasing. While many departments have initiated strict Standard Operating Procedures that keep firefighters on air through the overhaul phase of the fire, firefighter illness, disease and death is still on the rise.

The Wayne Township Fire Department recently lost Firefighter/Engineer Don Hochstetler who died from cancer on Sunday, November 17, 2013. Don's cancer was directly related to his duties of firefighting and was approved for an on-duty illness earlier this year. This is the first cancer-related Line of Duty Death (LODD) to fall under the Presumptive Disability Law in Indiana.

During live burn practical sessions earlier this year, the Fire Smoke Coalition had the opportunity to utilize GC/MS during the burn practical. The results were startling to participating firefighters. "Using the GC/MS gave us an opportunity to look further into the smoke," said Rob Schnepp, Chief of Special Operations, Alameda (County) CA Fire Department. Present in the small burns we conducted were Styrene, Acetopheone, Toluene Diisocyanate, Propenoic acid, Pyridine, and Benzonitrile - a wide array of chemical substances, well past the typical gases identified through standard gas detection technology. It's sobering to think about all the nasty stuff firefighters get exposed to."

While many of the toxicants found during the research would not immediately cause death to a firefighter on air, imagine the impact fire smoke will have on the civilian in a house fire with absolutely no protection during the incipient stage of the fire when noxious gases are forming. For the civilian, the levels of Hydrogen Cyanide have dramatically increased in house fires due to the plastics, laminates and synthetics in our homes today. Hydrogen Cyanide can be up to 35 times more toxic than carbon monoxide, an underappreciated risk that can cause severe injury or death within minutes. In a review of major fires over a 19-year period, cyanide was found at toxic-to-lethal levels in the blood of approximately 33 percent to 87 percent of fatalities.

There is also a trickle-down effect this training will have on communities the participating firefighters serve. In the United States, residential fires are the third leading cause of fatal injury and the fifth most common cause of unintentional injury death, yet the majority of fire-related fatalities are not caused by burns, but by smoke inhalation. Despite the amount of fires in the U.S. decreasing each year, the amount of civilians dying in fires is actually increasing. For example, in 2009, 1,348,500 fires were attended by public fire departments, a decrease of 7.1 percent from the year before; however, 3,010 civilian fire deaths occurred, which is an increase of 9.3 percent. The program will introduce firefighters to antidotal therapies and treatment protocols for cyanide poisoning as it relates to smoke inhalation, which have been adopted by other states and department and have proven to save lives.

Ultimately, the educational goal of the Coalition's training is to impart the unquestionable dangers of absorbing toxicants and most important, how to prevent the exposure. While there are many firefighters that have been exposed to deadly toxicants for years, there may not be much that can be done to offset the damage. For the younger generation, they will be convinced that habits must change for their health and safety.

This free training session will teach firefighters about the complexities of the combustion process during which numerous gases and toxicants are produced, most especially Hydrogen Cyanide and Carbon Monoxide; how to prevent smoke exposure and, most important to the communities they serve, how pre-hospital treatment of the smoke inhalation victim must include the consideration for cyanide exposure or poisoning. Firefighters will take valuable education back to their departments to save their own and those in their communities.

Registration is now open and the class is free to all first responders. For more information, please visit www.FireSmoke.org.

About the Fire Smoke Coalition
The Fire Smoke Coalition, Inc. is considered to be the international epicenter of education about the dangerous toxicants contained in fire smoke with a mission to prevent, protect, detect, diagnose and treat the exposure. For more information, please visit www.FireSmoke.org.


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Shawn Longerich
Fire Smoke Coalition, Inc.

Indianapolis, IN
United States
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