Assessing risk of myocardial infarction among fire fighters

Firefighters work in hazardous environments that may put them at risk of developing diseases such as cardiovascular disease. While job-related exposure to hazardous conditions is believed to increase firefighters’ risk of heart attack, there is little data available regarding their levels of exposure to hazardous work conditions and the risk associated with health outcomes. Canadian policy-makers are seeking new evidence to help them develop compensation programs and policies with regards to the risk of cardiovascular disease associated with work-related exposures among firefighters. Tracy Kirkham’s research is directed at identifying the types of hazardous exposures that may be related to an increased risk of heart attack among firefighters. Her study includes firefighters who had a heart attack while working at one of seven BC fire departments between 1984 and 2000. She is also monitoring and analyzing firefighters’ exposure to air pollutants and noise as well as using other indicators of exposure, such as signs of physiological stress, and numbers and types of fires fought. The results of this study may provide policy-makers with information to help inform decisions regarding compensation for work-related heart disease among firefighters. In addition, the results may be applied to other occupational groups with similar exposures to hazardous substances.