Firefighting acutely increases airway responsiveness

C. B. Sherman, S. Barnhart, M. F. Miller, M. R. Segal, M. Aitken, R. Schoene, W. Daniell, L. Rosenstock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The acute effects of the products of combustion and pyrolysis on airway responsiveness among firefighters are poorly documented. To study this relationship, spirometry and methacholine challenge testing (MCT) were performed on 18 active Seattle firefighters before and 5 to 24 h after firefighting. Body plethysmography was used to measure changes in specific airway conductance (SGaw), and results of MCT were analyzed using PD(35-SGaw), the cumulative dose causing a 35% decrease in SGaw. Subjects who did not react by the end of the protocol were assigned a value of 640 inhalational units, the largest cumulative dose. Fire exposure was defined as the total time (hours) spent without a self-contained breathing apparatus at the firesite and was categorized as mild (<1 h, n = 7), moderate (1 to 2 h, n = 5), or severe (>2 h, n = 6). Mean age of the 18 firefighters was 36.7 ± 6.7 yr (range, 25 to 51), with a mean of 9.1 ± 7.9 active years in the trade (range, zero to 22). None was known to be asthmatic. After firefighting, FEV1 % predicted (%pred) and FEF25-75 %pred significantly decreased by means of 3.4 ± 1.1% and 5.6 ± 2.6%, respectively. The mean decline in PD(35-SGaw) after firefighting was 184.5 ± 53.2 units (p = 0.003). This observed decline in PD(35-SGaw) could not be explained by decrements in prechallenge SGaw, FEV1, or FVC. Analysis of variance revealed that the percent change in PD(35-SGaw) was greatest in those with moderate exposure (81.5%, p < 0.05) and was not related to smoking (p = 0.43) or years in the trade (p = 0.56). Firefighting is associated with an acute decrease in FEV1 %pred and FEF25-75 %pred and with an acute increase in airway responsiveness among firefighters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-190
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Review of Respiratory Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine

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