Australian firefighters exposed to bushfire smoke that may contain a cocktail of toxic compounds (particulate/organic vapour/formaldehyde) are posed with significant occupation risks including acute and chronic lung function impairment. Available face masks “for those at the fire-front vary greatly in their ability to shield the firefighter from particulate matter and the gases present in bushfire smoke”.
Ms Annemarie de Vos is a PhD student at The University of Western Australia is working on a research project funded by the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre (Bushfire CRC). [17 May 2007, CRCA Conference]
De Vos took part in Showcasing CRC Early Career Scientists, a highlight of the Cooperative Research Centres Association Conference, chaired by Professor Lyn Beazley, Chief Scientist of Western Australia.
Together with the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) of Western Australia, de Vos assessed “the effectiveness of a range of protective respiratory filters worn by firefighters who are required to remain in smoke logged conditions while protecting properties from fire”. This study has resulted in FESA endorsing the use of a type of filter for its career firefighters.
During her talk, de Vos described the issue of increased bushfires and the methods involved in the face mask trials. But what speaks loudest is a testimonial from a firefighter that she read aloud at the end of her talk.