New research will study long-term risks for firefighters

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CHAMPAIGN--Dozens of firefighters from across the state and across the country will report for duty in Champaign next month for a study that's the first of it's kind.

Heart emergencies are the leading cause of on-duty deaths for firefighters and research shows firefighters also expose themselves to many carcinogens while fighting flames. But a new study out of the Illinois Fire Service Institute aims to raise awareness about these issues like never before.  

"It's never been done at the level that we're looking at," said Dr. Gavin Horn, research director at the IFSI. "We can look at what is the environment, what is the equipment that we're wearing exposed to, and what are the potential exposures to the firefighters themselves."

Beginning in June, dozens of firefighters will fight controlled fires in a 1200 square foot model home, all to measure the electrical activity in their hearts and test for chemical exposure with cutting-edge equipment worth millions.

"Once we can identify where our gaps and limitations are, then we can look at, either engineering controls, health and safety controls, or just changes in tactics and strategies that can help us that can help us reduce some of those risks," said Horn.

"Something that the fire department has taught me is that there is always more to learn," said Todd Anderson, an engineer with the Champaign Fire Department. "There is a long ways to go, but I'm glad that we're being made aware of it."
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