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Study: Respiratory, mental health issues in Ft. McMurray firefighters

An epidemiologist leading the study said crews may develop bigger issues as time goes on

By FireRescue1 Staff

FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta — Preliminary findings found that many firefighters who responded to the Fort McMurray wildfire are facing health problems.

CBC.ca reported that the University of Alberta study surveyed 355 firefighters; a majority complained of coughing, breathlessness, wheezing and chest tightness after battling the wildfire.

"When we saw them later, probably about one in five of those still had problems with their chests that they felt had been caused or made worse by the fire," Nicola Cherry, the epidemiologist leading the study, said.

Mental health issues also affected one in six of the study's participants.

Cherry's goal is to determine which factors in fighting the fire lead to long-term health issues and how it can be addressed for future firefighters.

"We can't stop the fire happening, but we can make sure that we learn all the lessons that we possibly can so that people in the future won't be put at risk in the same way," Cherry said.

Participants filled out a survey and gave consent for researchers to access their medical records.

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