The effect of smoke inhalation on lung function and airway responsiveness in wildland fire fighters
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Diane Liu; Ira B. Tager; John R. Balmes; Robert J. Harrison
Publication Year: 1992

Cataloging Information

  • firefighter health
  • inhalation irritants
  • respiratory illness
  • smoke impacts
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: February 15, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 22312


The current study was undertaken to evaluate the effect of smoke on forced expiratory volumes and airway responsiveness in wildland fire fighters during a season of active fire fighting. Sixty-three seasonal and full-time wildland fire fighters from five U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USDAFS) Hotshot crews in Northern California and Montana completed questionnaires, spirometry, and methacholine challenge testing before and after an active season of fire fighting in 1989. There were significant mean individual declines of 0.09, 0.15, and 0.44 L/s in postseason values of FVC, FEV1, and FEF25–75, respectively, compared with preseason values. There were no consistent significant relationships between mean individual declines of the spirometric parameters and the covariates: sex, smoking history, history of asthma or allergies, years as a fire fighter, upper/lower respiratory symptoms, or membership in a particular Hotshot crew. There was a statistically significant increase in airway responsiveness when comparing preseason methacholine dose-response slopes (DRS) with postseason dose-response slopes (p = 0.02). The increase in airway responsiveness appeared to be greatest in fire fighters with a history of lower respiratory symptoms or asthma, but it was not related to smoking history. These data suggest that wildland fire fighting is associated with decreases in lung function and increases in airway responsiveness independent of a history of cigarette smoking. Our findings are consistent with the results of previous studies of municipal fire fighters.

Online Link(s):
Liu, Diane; Tager, Ira B.; Balmes, John R.; Harrison, Robert J. 1992. The effect of smoke inhalation on lung function and airway responsiveness in wildland fire fighters. American Review of Respiratory Disease 146(6):1469-1473.