Silicone Wristbands Track Firefighters’ Chemical Exposure
Firefighters have a 9% higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14% higher risk of dying from the disease than the general adult U.S. population, according to studies by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and other agencies.
Recent research by scientists at Duke University could give doctors and public health officials a new tool for tracking firefighters’ exposures to cancer-causing chemicals and determining where and when the risks might be greatest.
The decision to use the bands to track firefighters’ risks came about when the Durham Fire Department (DFD) approached Duke researchers for help identifying exposure risks its firefighters faced.
“Firefighters have high cancer rates compared to the general population, but we don’t know why,” Levasseur said.”Is it caused by exposure to one chemical or a mix of them? Is it something they breathe in while working in fires or being near them? Or something else? There are lots of risk factors and potential routes of exposure, and we wanted to see if silicone wristbands could be a practical tool for disentangling them.”
Each wristband was analyzed for 134 different chemical compounds, including phthalates, brominated flame retardants, organophosphate esters, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), all of which have been linked to increased incidence of certain cancers.
“Seventy-one of these chemicals—including seven PFAS, which to our knowledge have never previously been detected using wristbands—were found in at least half of the bands,” Levasseur said.
In contrast, wristbands worn on off-duty days contained higher levels of phthalates and pesticides.
“This research is the first to demonstrate that silicone wristbands can be used to quantify occupational exposure in firefighters and distinguish exposures that may be related to fire events versus other sources,” Levasseur said.
News Courtesy: My Droll