On Saturday, October 29th, faculty and graduate students from the Environmental and Occupational Health Science program conducted a survey with over 150 firefighters from across the Green River Firefighter Association (GRFA). A firefighter school was held by the GRFA at the Owensboro Community and Technical College, drawing firefighters from throughout the region. Faculty members, Dr. Jooyeon Hwang and Dr. Ritchie Taylor, and adjunct instructor Mac Cann, led a team of five graduate students, Divya Gadde, Randi Hunton, Akshay Nuguri, Harshitha Ponnala, and Shila Thapa, to survey more than 150 firefighters during this event.
This work is a community based participatory research project that was initiated more than a year ago. The team of faculty working on this project also include Dr. Vijay Golla and Dr. Gretchen Macy. Together, with leadership and firefighters from the GRFA, they developed a research project and survey during meetings at the WKU Owensboro Campus. The emphasis of this research is to study work related exposures that firefighters may experience, such as exposures to fire smoke contaminants. This study is critical, as disparities in firefighter exposures may result in disproportionate health effects.
Another key component of this research is a comparison of career and volunteer firefighter exposures. To date, very limited research has been conducted with volunteer firefighters. Funding for this project was provided by the College of Health and Human Services through a Quick Turnaround Grant (QTAG). Results of the survey will be presented to the GRFA during their January meeting. The collaboration will be continued through a study initiated this semester to assess fire smoke contaminants on gear and in the vehicles of firefighters.