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Alberta researchers to test lungs of Fort McMurray firefighters

(Courtesy CITY TV)

CALGARY (NEWS 1130) – New funding will help researchers test the lungs of thousands of firefighters from across Alberta who helped battle the flames of the Fort McMurray wildfire.

University of Alberta epidemiologist, Nicole Cherry, and her team heard complaints of breathing and sleep problems months after last May’s wildfire. They tested hundreds of people once they returned home.

She’s now studying the long-term impacts and wants to test 3,000 municipal and wildland firefighters.

“We’re looking to see what recommendations we can make about how, in future fires, the effects of the fire can be reduced — both my looking at… the respirations they were given, were they useful? And also mental health effects,” says Cherry.

In her studies of occupational health hazards, Cherry points to New York firefighters and their partners.

“One parallel, it’s not an exact parallel, is the firefighters who were involved in the 9/11 fires. And certainly, they did, for years afterwards, have an obstructive lung condition that appears to be associated with the fire.”

Part of the study is linking information to Alberta Ministry of Health records to track if firefighters had more doctor visits or unusual diagnosis clusters.