TitleInvestigation of Firefighter Exposures to Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) Using Silicone Dog-Tags
Publication TypePoster
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsBonner EM, Poutasse CM, Poston WSCarlos, Jahnke SA, Haddock CK, Tidwell LG, Hoffman PD, Anderson KA
Conference/Meeting/VenueInternational Society of Exposure Science, Remote
Date Published08/2021

Firefighters provide critical services to communities around the world despite the occupational hazards that they face. One such hazard, is exposure to a suite of chemicals released during a fire. In particular, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a concerning class of chemicals, which persist in older building materials and electrical equipment (e.g. transformers). PCBs are recognized as endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, and developmental toxicants. Furthermore, some studies have shown structural firefighters to have elevated levels of PCBs in their serum. In this study, silicone passive samplers similar to military dog-tags worn around the neck were used to measure the bioavailable fraction of PCBs firefighters were exposed to while on- and off-duty. The dog-tags were worn by firefighters for a total of 30 24- hour shifts (n=57). These firefighters were from two different stations in the Kansas City metropolitan area, one of which had fewer than two calls to respond to per month on average (low call volume), and one that had more than 12 calls per month on average (high call volume). Additional questionnaire data was collected on number of fire attacks an individual participated in, demographics, and lifestyle information that might influence chemical exposures. The dog-tags were extracted using solvent and underwent solid phase extraction prior to instrumental analysis. Gas chromatography - mass spectrometry (GC-MS) was used to analyze the extracts for 43 PCB congeners. PCBs were detected in sample extracts from 16 different firefighters, 12 of which were from the high call volume station. Out of 12 detected congeners, PCB 153 was the most frequently detected. Statistical analyses will be used to assess whether PCB concentrations were higher at the high versus low call volume department and while on- compared to off-duty. Finally, we will explore correlation between questionnaire data such as number of fire attacks, and firefighters’ individual PCB exposures. Although firefighters may be exposed to increased levels of PCBs in house fires, few studies have monitored these exposures. There are even fewer studies that measure dermal exposure, even though PCBs are known to be absorbed through and distributed to the skin. Given the hazards posed by PCBs, it is critical that we better understanding individual firefighters’ exposures to PCBs while on- and off-duty.