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Firefighters' Cancer Risk Heightened Due To Smoke Inhalation

Free Symposium by RAE Systems, Fire Smoke Coalition to Train Indianapolis-area First Responders on Avoiding the Dangers

San Jose, Calif. &endash; March 31, 2014 &endash; Everyone knows fire fighting is a dangerous job. But on top of the physical dangers, firefighters also face a higher cancer risk than the population as a whole due to smoke inhalation, the cause of most fire illnesses and deaths according to recent studies. RAE Systems, a leading manufacturer of toxic gas detection technology for first responders, and the Fire Smoke Coalition, are teaming up to educate and train fire fighters on how to avoid the dangers.

“Know Your Smoke: The Dangers of Fire Smoke Exposure” is a free symposium for fire fighters and first responders. The symposium will provide firefighters with information on the dangerous health effects of fire smoke exposure and protocols on how to proceed safely and effectively during fire ground operations. 

The cancer risk fire fighters face is well documented. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a combined population of 30,000 firefighters from three large cities had higher rates of several types of cancers, and of all cancers combined, than the U.S. population as a whole. Also, in a report by the University of Cincinnati's environmental health department, firefighters are twice as likely to develop testicular cancer and have significantly higher rates of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and prostate cancer than people in other professions — and overall found 10 cancers that were either possibly or probably related to firefighting. With the majority of fire illness and death caused by smoke inhalation and not burns, responders should understand the dangers presented by smoke inhalation.

The symposium includes a classroom session followed by a live burn and smoke practical. The live burn practical will focus on the proper use of atmospheric monitoring equipment with an emphasis on monitoring hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide (HCN and CO). These two gases &endash; referred to as the “toxic twins” &endash; are the only two treatable toxicants if smoke exposure occurs.

During the live burn practical session, the instructors will focus on teaching firefighters how to conduct atmospheric monitoring at every fire scene through practical training exercises, while burning household items such as plastics, foams, synthetics, laminates and roofing materials. Most important, firefighters will learn that every fire scene is a HazMat environment &endash; a cultural shift for fire departments throughout the world.

Toxic gas monitoring systems are an essential life-saving component of fire department equipment. The “Know Your Smoke” event will help educate firefighters and emergency personnel on their effective use to avoid dangerous smoke inhalation, especially during overhaul operations.

“It's encouraging to see that both fire smoke and hydrogen cyanide poisoning are being recognized for the serious and prevalent illnesses they are,” said Rob Schnepp, assistant chief of Special Operations for the Alameda County (CA) Fire Department. “As we learn more about the dangers of fire smoke, and pass that information along to firefighters and civilians around the world, we are confident we can reduce the number of people injured and killed by smoke.”

About Fire Smoke Coalition

The mission of the Fire Smoke Coalition is to focus the required attention and resources on the deadly and life-long consequences of breathing fire smoke by teaching firefighters and first responders how to prevent, protect, detect, diagnose, and appropriately treat the exposure if it occurs. 

About RAE Systems by Honeywell
RAE Systems by Honeywell innovates, designs and manufactures gas monitors and radiation detectors. The company offers a full line of fixed and portable gas detection solutions, including handheld and personal chemical, compound and radiation detection instruments. RAE Systems' real-time safety and detection systems have been deployed by organizations in the oil and gas, fire and HazMat, industrial safety, national security and environmental markets, helping save lives and maintain safety in 120 countries. The company's industry-leading gas sensors and radiation detection solutions are widely recognized for their performance and reliability. 

RAE Systems by Honeywell is a division of Honeywell Analytics, part of Honeywell Life Safety (HLS) within Honeywell Automation and Control Solutions (ACS). Honeywell ( is a Fortune 100 diversified technology and manufacturing leader, serving customers worldwide with aerospace products and services; control technologies for buildings, homes, and industry; turbochargers; and performance materials. Based in Morris Township, N.J., Honeywell's shares are traded on the New York, London, and Chicago Stock Exchanges. 

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