Surveillance of morbidity during wildfires--Central Florida, 1998.
Several large wildfires occurred in Florida during June-July 1998, many involving both rural and urban areas in Brevard, Flagler, Orange, Putnam, Seminole, and Volusia counties. By July 22, a total of 2277 fires had burned 499,477 acres throughout the state (Florida Department of Community Affairs, unpublished data, 1998). On June 22, after receiving numerous phone calls from persons complaining of respiratory problems attributable to smoke, the Volusia County Health Department issued a public health alert advising persons with pre-existing pulmonary or cardiovascular conditions to avoid outdoor air in the vicinity of the fires. To determine whether certain medical conditions increased in frequency during the wildfires, the Volusia County Health Department and the Florida Department of Health initiated surveillance of selected conditions. This report summarizes the results of this investigation. (+info
Consumer hazards of plastics.
The modern consumer is exposed to a wide variety of plastic and rubber products in his day to day life: at home, work, school, shopping, recreation and play, and transport. A large variety of toxic sequellae have resulted from untoward exposures by many different routes: oral, dermal, inhalation, and parenteral. Toxic change may result from the plastic itself, migration of unbound components and additives, chemical decomposition or toxic pyrolysis products. The type of damage may involve acute poisoning, chronic organ damage, reproductive disorders, and carcinogenic, mutagenic and teratogenic episodes. Typical examples for all routes are cited along with the activites of Canadian regulatory agencies to reduce both the incidence and severity of plastic-induced disease. (+info
Chemistry and toxicity of flame retardants for plastics.
An overview of commercially used flame retardants is give. The most used flame retardants are illustrated and the seven major markets, which use 96% of all flame-retarded polymers, are described. Annual flame retardant growth rate for each major market is also projected. Toxicity data are reviewed on only those compositions that are considered commercially significant today. This includes 18 compounds or families of compounds and four inherently flame-retarded polymers. Toxicological studies of flame retardants for most synthetic materials are of recent origin and only a few of the compounds have been evaluated in any great detail. Considerable toxicological problems may exist in the manufacturing of some flame retardants, their by-products, and possible decomposition products. (+info
Toxicity of combustion products from burning polymers: development and evaluation of methods.
Laboratory and room-scale experiments were conducted with natural and synthetic polymers: cotton, paper, wood, wool, acetate, acrylic, nylon, and urethane. Smoke and off-gases from single materials were generated in a dual-compartment 110-liter exposure chamber. Multicomponent, composite fuel loads were burned within a 100 m(3) facility subdivided into rooms. In chamber experiments, mortality depended on the amount of material burned, i.e., fuel consumption (FC). Conventional dose (FC)/mortality curves were obtained, and the amount of fuel required to produce 50% mortality (FC(50)) was calculated. With simple flame ignition, cotton was the only material that produced smoke concentrations lethal to rats; FC(50) values for cotton ranged from 2 g to 9 g, depending on the configuration of the cotton sample burned. When supplemental conductive heat was added to flame ignition, the following FC(50) values were obtained; nylon, 7 g; acrylic, 8 g; newsprint, 9 g; cotton, 10 g; and wood, 11 g. Mortality resulting from any given material depended upon the specific conditions employed for its thermal decomposition. Toxicity of off-gasses from pyrolysis of phosphorus-containing trimethylol propane-polyurethane foams was markedly decreased by addition of a flame ignition source. Further studies are needed to determine the possible relevance of single-material laboratory scale smoke toxicity experiments. Room-scale burns were conducted to assess the relative contributions of single materials to toxicity of smoke produced by a multicomponent self-perpetuating fire. Preliminary results suggest that this approach permits a realistic evaluation of the contribution of single materials to the toxicity of smoke from residential fires. (+info
House fire injury prevention update. Part I. A review of risk factors for fatal and non-fatal house fire injury.
OBJECTIVE: To summarize house fire injury risk factor data, using relative risk estimation as a uniform method of comparison. METHODS: Residential fire risk factor studies were identified as follows: MEDLINE (1983 to March 1997) was searched using the keywords fire*/burn*, with etiology/cause*, prevention, epidemiology, and smoke detector* or alarm*. ERIC (1966 to March 1997) and PSYCLIT (1974 to June 1997) were searched by the above keywords, as well as safety, skills, education, and training. Other sources included: references of retrieved publications, review articles, and injury prevention books; Injury Prevention journal hand search; government documents; and internet sources. When not provided by the authors, relative risk (RR), odds ratio, and standardized mortality ratios were calculated, to enhance comparison between studies. RESULTS: Fifteen relevant articles were retrieved, including two case-control studies. Non-modifiable risk factors included young age (RR 1.8-7.5), old age (RR 2.6-3.6), male gender (RR 1.4-2.9), non-white race (RR 1.3-15.0), low income (RR 3.4), disability (RR 2.5-6.5), and late night/early morning occurrence (RR 4.1). Modifiable risk factors included place of residence (RR 2.1-4.2), type of residence (RR 1.7-10.5), smoking (RR 1.5 to 7.7), and alcohol use (RR 0.7-7.5). Mobile homes and homes with fewer safety features, such as a smoke detector or a telephone, presented a higher risk of fatal injury. CONCLUSIONS: Risk factor data should be used to assist in the development, targeting, and evaluation of preventive strategies. Development of a series of quantitative systematic reviews could synthesize existing data in areas such as house fire injury prevention. (+info
Estimating the proportion of homes with functioning smoke alarms: a comparison of telephone survey and household survey results.
OBJECTIVES: This study determined the proportion of homes with functioning smoke alarms in a low-income area experiencing a high rate of residential fire-related injuries. METHODS: An on-site survey of households was conducted to confirm the results of a telephone survey. RESULTS: In the telephone survey, 71% of households reported having functioning smoke alarms. In the household survey, 66% of households reported having functioning alarms; however, when the alarms were tested, the percentage dropped to 49%. CONCLUSIONS: Telephone surveys may overestimate the presence of functioning smoke alarms in some populations. Thus, the use of telephone surveys to establish baseline measures could significantly affect the evaluation of smoke-alarm giveaway programs. (+info
Lessons learnt from a factory fire with asbestos-containing fallout.
BACKGROUND: Fallout containing asbestos from a factory fire at Tranmere, Wirral, England, landed on a highly populated urban area with an estimated 16000 people living in the area worst affected, which included a shipbuilding community. There was considerable public concern over the health impact of the acute environmental incident, and great media interest. METHODS: A descriptive study was carried out of the acute environmental incident and its management, and the difficulties encountered. RESULTS: Practical lessons learnt include need for: increased fire-fighter awareness of potential adverse health effects from asbestos in the structure of buildings; early involvement of both Local Authority environmental health and National Health Service public health departments; creation of a systematic local database of potential environmental health hazards in the structure of buildings as well as their contents; 24 hour on-call arrangements with laboratories expert in analyses of fire fallout; rapid quantitative analyses of multiple environmental samples; district written policy on handling asbestos incidents; systematic assessment of fright and media factors in public impact of an incident; dedicated public help-lines open long hours; consistent evidence-based public messages from all those communicating with the public; measurement of asbestos levels in the street and homes for public reassurance; local and health authorities' subscription to an environmental incident support service; formation of an acute environmental incident team to jointly manage and publicly report on airborne acute environmental incidents; clear government definition of responsibilities of different agencies. CONCLUSIONS: This paper provides a description of important lessons learnt during an acute environmental incident with asbestos-containing fallout. It will be helpful to those involved in the practical planning for and management of future incidents. (+info
Heat stress and flame protective clothing in mine rescue brigadesmen: inter- and intraindividual variation of strain.
A climatic exposure was conducted for the 52 rescue brigadesmen of a mine while they wore flame protective clothing. We looked for individual parameters allowing prediction of tolerated exposure times in the climate tested. Of all individual parameters, only body temperature at the end of the Stoklossa heat tolerance test and physical fitness showed significant influence on the tolerated exposure time, although not very strongly. Age, body mass, and Body Mass Index showed no significant influence on the tolerated exposure time. It was found during a longitudinal study that the tolerance time within the climate for four subjects showed considerable variations, and so it was decided neither to take the result of the heat tolerance test as admittance criterion for the mine rescue service nor to perform a ranking of brigadesmen with respect to heat tolerance by this test. (+info