What are PAH’s?

  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are products of combustion that exist in both the particle and gas phases that firefighters are exposed to during firefighting operations. Exposure for firefighters is generally complex involving mixtures of particles and chemicals that include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a class of chemicals that occur naturally in coal, crude oil, and gasoline. They also are produced when coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage, and tobacco are burned. PAHs generated from these sources can bind to or form small particles in the air.
  • Of the PAHs that are commonly produced during fires, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified benzo[a]pyrene as carcinogenic to humans and others such as Dibenz[a,h]anthracene, Benz[a]anthracene, Benzo[b]fluoranthene, Benzo[k]fluoranthene, Chrysene and Naphthalene as probably or possibly carcinogenic to humans.
  • In addition to PAHs, all fires will produce other potentially carcinogenic aromatic hydrocarbons such as benzene.
  • Firefighting continues to be among the most hazardous yet least studied occupations in terms of exposures and their relationship to occupational disease.

What are OPFRs and PBDEs?

  • Organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been used as flame retardants in consumer goods and building materials to slow the development of a fire, yet inadvertently these chemicals are also released during combustion.
  • PBDEs are known to be persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic. Because of these properties the use of PBDEs in new materials is regulated.  Building materials and consumer products that contain legacy PBDEs are still used and firefighter’s exposure to PBDEs is ongoing.
  • With the regulation of PBDEs, there has been an increase in the use of OPFRs as flame retardants. From experimental data the cancerogenic potential of some OPFRs including Tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate has been deduced.

Why can’t we use a standard wet/baby wipe instead of DEKONMATE Decontamination Wipe?

    • Generic wet wipes are generally water based. PAHs are lipid soluble and tend to be sticky and they won’t be removed by water based wipes from the skin.
    • Alcohol based wipes are damaging to the epidermis (the skin’s protective layer) and generally not recommended by dermatologists for long term use.
    • Water is also polar whilst PAHs are non-polar, therefore they are not attracted to each other on a molecular level.
  • DEKONMATE® Decontamination Wipe contains a unique formula dermatologically tested and laboratory proven to rapidly clean and decontaminate face, neck, arms, hands and other areas of the body post contamination reducing the potential for dermal absorption of cancer causing contaminants such as PAHs.

Why is DEKONMATE Decontamination Wipe more effective than other firefighter wipes on the market?

  • DEKONMATE® Decontamination Wipe contains a unique formula dermatologically tested and laboratory proven to rapidly clean and decontaminate face, neck, arms, hands and other areas of the body post contamination reducing the potential for dermal absorption of contaminants such as PAHs.

Why is it important to use DEKONMATE® Decontamination Wipe on the fire ground?

  • To effectively reduce the dermal absorption of contaminants, a thorough and comprehensive personal decontamination protocol needs to be conducted as soon as reasonably practicable on the fire ground.
  • Waiting to return to station, which can sometimes be several hours later is considered to be ‘too late’ and the damage in terms of dermal absorption has already occurred. The sooner contaminants are removed from the skin surface, the greater the reduction in dermal absorption.

Can’t we just return to the station and shower?

  • Evidence demonstrates a majority of exposure risk has  already occurred before a firefighter can return to station and shower.
  • The Risk associated with contaminant exposure is here explained in a simplified risk matrix
    Risk = Exposure × Time
  • Exposure to contaminants at fire scenes in unavoidable. What can be changed is the Time of exposure. By using DEKONMATE Decontamination Wipe at the fire ground or as soon as practically possible the time for contaminants to be dermally absorbed through the skin can be significantly reduced.
  • Over the course of a firefighting career or exposure to several fires, this massive reduction in the time of exposure is significant.

Doesn’t a firefighters PPE and PPC protect them from exposure to PAHs and other contaminants?

  • There is a wealth of international research which has proven the link between firefighting and the increased risk of specific cancers for firefighters.
  • Generally, firefighters are occupationally exposed to a cocktail of toxins and contaminants which including PAHs, OPFRs, PBDEs and metals.
  • PAHs are largely associated with unburnt products of combustion and are present in smoke.
  • OPFRs and PBDEs are incorporated into a wide range of consumer products as flame retardants to slow the development of a fire but are inadvertently released during combustion.
  • Research has shown that protective clothing and equipment worn by firefighters varies greatly around the world in terms of performance but even the best equipment and the most diligent firefighter is not comprehensively protected at all times from harmful contaminants, such as PAHs, which can penetrate through to the firefighter’s skin and are quickly and easily absorbed into the body.
  • Numerous studies have shown that the head/neck/jaw areas of a firefighter are the most vulnerable to dermal absorption and have been identified as the most likely route of dermal absorption of contaminants into the body.
  • Additionally, increased skin temperatures that firefighters experience at the scene of a fire increase how absorbent skin is, this increases the potential for dermal absorption of contaminants.