Cancer-causing vapors and particulates are present in the air and on object surfaces at fire scenes. Fire investigators and other personnel who work these fire scenes can be exposed to carcinogens in multiple ways, including through inhalation and skin absorption, as they discharge their duties. The effects of these exposures may be cumulative and may not manifest as cancer or other diseases for many years. As more research is undertaken to better understand the specific risks and thus how to mitigate those risks, there is consensus among public health professionals that there are steps fire investigators can take at every scene to reduce and limit their exposure to substances that are known to cause cancer and other diseases. In this module, you will learn more about how cancer develops, what occupational exposure risks to carcinogens exist at fire scenes, and how to better protect yourself against those exposures. Although every fire scene is different, and no statement or recommendation is an absolute; all recommendations in this program present best practices in most situations.
The IAAI promotes accepted health and safety practices when conducting origin and cause examinations. Images of investigators without PPE in this module are not intended to be endorsement of unsafe practices but are used to demonstrate routes of exposure and hazards associated with these unsafe practices and lack of PPE utilization.