Human Factors of Firefighter Safety
Wildland Firefighter Health
Background:Exposure to inhaled smoke, pollutants, volatile organic compounds, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the firefighting environment has been associated with detrimental respiratory and cardiovascular effects, making firefighters a unique population with both personal and occupational risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Some of these exposures are also associated with development of atrial fibrillation. We aimed to study the association of atrial fibrillation and occupational exposure in firefighters.
Methods and Results: A cross‐sectional survey was conducted between October 2018 and December 2019. Data were gathered electronically and stored in a secure REDCap database through Louisiana State University Health Shreveport. Firefighters who were members of at least 1 of 5 preselected professional organizations were surveyed via electronic links distributed by the organizations. The survey queried the number of fires fought per year as a measure of occupational exposure, as well as self‐reported cardiovascular disease. A total of 10 860 active firefighters completed the survey, of whom 93.5% were men and 95.5% were aged ≤60 years. Firefighters who fought a higher number of fires per year had a significantly higher prevalence of atrial fibrillation (0–5 fires per year 2%, 6–10 fires per year 2.3%, 11–20 fires per year 2.7%, 21–30 fires per year 3%, 31 or more fires per year 4.5%; P<0.001). Multivariable logistic regression showed that a higher number of fires fought per year was associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation (odds ratio 1.14 [95% CI, 1.04–1.25]; P=0.006).
Conclusions: Firefighters may have an increased risk of atrial fibrillation associated with the number of fires they fight per year. Further clinical and translational studies are needed to explore causation and mechanisms.