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Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Firefighters:
Biomarkers of Exposure and Effect

A FFCCS FEMA-funded Sub-Project 

This page last updated on 12/27/2020

General information:

• As the total number of burned acres has increased, so has the number of lost homes and structures due to the expansion of the wildland urban interface (WUI), where wildland vegetation and urban areas meet.

• Exposures from burning vegetation, WUI firefighters may experience structural firefighting exposures without wearing the PPE used in a structural response (e.g. SCBA, turnout gear) or the ability to follow decontamination practices recommended for structural fire response. To understand exposures and health effects faced by WUI firefighters, we are adding on to the Fire Fighter Cancer Cohort Study (FFCCS), an existing collaborative research study with the University of Arizona and University of Miami, by collecting data to measure exposures and epigenetic changes from WUI fire incidents during the 2019 and 2020 fire season.

Research Aims:

• Estimate acute WUI firefighter exposure to metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, and organophosphorus flame retardants post-fire incidents

• Assess chronic WUI firefighter exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and brominated flame retardants

• Evaluate epigenetic changes (differences in DNA methylation and micro RNA expression) across one fire season

Study Timeline: ​

The FFCCS: WUI firefighters study is an on-going component of the overarching FFCCS research project. The timeline of this project and the separate study components is shown below:

Anticipated Impact:

We need to understand the types of chemicals, their routes of exposures and concentration levels that firefighters are being exposed to out on the line to able to understand the full extent of health risks for WUI firefighters.