New research project investigates exposure of Calgary firefighters to occupational carcinogens

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Calgary - Alberta - Canada


CALGARY, Alberta - Sept. 30, 2019 - PRLog -- AGAT Laboratories and the Calgary Fire Department have unveiled a collaborative research project to identify and monitor firefighters' exposure to contaminants such as per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and dioxins/furans. Prolonged exposure to these substances has long-term harmful effects on human health and is linked to various types of cancer, thyroid disease, kidney degeneration, liver damage and weakened immunity. Using an innovative exposure assessment method, AGAT Laboratories has successfully completed the pilot experiment and will now conduct Phase 1 of this study with the participation of 30 Calgary firefighters.

Braving the flames is a daily occurrence for firefighters but there are other occupational dangers they must confront in their working lives, including exposure to a wide range of carcinogenic and hazardous substances during the rescue and recovery efforts. A 2018 study by University of the Fraser Valley found that Canadian firefighters are 3 times more likely to die of cancer than the general population. Cancer was named as the leading cause of death in 86% of firefighter workplace fatality claims in Canada, far surpassing cardiovascular disease and traumatic injuries.

Derrick Urbanowski, Health and Safety Coordinator at the Calgary Fire Department (CFD), is pleased to partner with AGAT Laboratories on this collaborative research project: "This is the latest in a line of several initiatives introduced in recent years by the Calgary Fire Department to analyze firefighter health data and promote their physical, psychological and social well-being during their years of public service and beyond."

Dr. Lisa Neville, AGAT's Director of Technical Sciences is confident that developing a new assessment exposure methodology will grant the CFD access to a more refined set of data on source monitoring of these carcinogenic substances. "We are formalizing a new methodology that will provide a novel insight into firefighter exposure levels", she said. We are able to detect a wide spectrum of contaminants that pose a carcinogenic threat to humans in general and to members of the Canadian protective services in particular."

"This study aims to better inform the CFD of contaminants that directly affect the health, safety and security of their firefighters, thus alerting them to exposure risks that need to be addressed immediately," said Nathan Scott, AGAT's Vice President of Operations. "AGAT Laboratories has advanced capabilities in forensic analysis and specialty chemistry. We are also the only commercial laboratory in Canada to offer comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography, or GCxGC, which is a leading-edge technology that allows the identification of a vast array of compounds at extremely low detection limits."

Key findings of this innovative research collaboration will be made available upon completion of the study.

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Soumia Zghayou
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Location:Calgary - Alberta - Canada
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