Table of Contents

Diesel Exhaust Exposure and Illnesses

For years the members of Fire Service Communities have been scratching their heads trying to figure out WHY. Why is it that statistics continue to show that the Health problems and related Deaths caused by Cancers, Respiratory and Heart problems among fire fighters far exceed that of the general public?

I feel my expertise on the subject can be of assistance in this regard.

I am providing key points that I believe are fundamental to any discussion on the issue:

Health Related Problems, Acute and long term chronic affects,

Results of exposure include, but are not limited to, Allergy, Asthma, and GERD type symptoms such as: The clearing of the throat due to continuous drainage (causing, loss of smell and taste, shortness of breath), heart burn, chest pain, apnea, dizziness, agitation/irritability, and the list goes on. Eventually the victim becomes sensitized (the body succumbing due to being constantly exposed) by expressing symptoms in relation to allergy, asthma, and GERD , but now not just limited to the initial cause (DIESEL EXHAUST).

Remember, the first noticeable affected area is the point of entry, the Upper Respiratory System, thereby causing the destruction of the nasal mucus membranes, which is the first line of defense against contaminants entering the system.

Finally, studies have shown that fire fighters are plagued with premature health problems and death, greater than the general public, nation wide. This, involving numerous forms of cancers and heart problems.

Remedy to minimize Diesel Exhaust Exposure causing Sick
Building Syndrome.

It has been shown that Exhaust Removal Systems (including Closed Capture Systems), by themselves, cannot guarantee an exposure-free environment in the areas immediately within and outside the affected sick building. A Recapture System (but not limited to) should be put in place, in an attempt to stop further exposure to the environment and from allowing expelled exhaust to be sucked through the building's Air Handling System. Understand this does not necessarily stop further exposure from off-gassing of contaminated surfaces. This method of Source Capture coupled with a Recapture System can be funded through FEMA Fire Grants, under Health and Safety.

To stop future off-gassing issues from the contaminated substrates (drywall, ceiling tiles etc..), appropriate decontamination methods are required. This will include the initial decontamination, duct cleaning, encapsulation of contaminated surfaces and a positive pressure separation between apparatus and the living quarters.

Periodic Air Quality Testing to assure a safe work environment,

Proper thorough periodic testing, by a Certified Environmental Engineer, to detect and measure levels of exposures to detect and measure levels of exposures is required. This is to include, but not limited to, testing for Elemental Carbon. Improper and inadequate testing for Diesel Exhaust Exposure is unacceptable, and only leads to unnecessary expenses.

Finally, NFPA Standards,

Setting a Standard outlining preventative /corrective measures as described above.

Legal Obligation,

Fire Departments should consider the possible legal ramifications related to this subject.

Legal precedent has been set in the State of Illinois Industrial Commission, Case No. 03IIC0900, Frank Richter v. Village of Oak Brook. Further information pertaining to this case can be located at

I hope the above mentioned can be of assistance in forming the bases in helping to correct this potentially dangerous problem.

Frank H. Richter, Chairman