NIOSH warns against zinc chloride in training smoke, especially indoors

NIOSH warns against zinc chloride in training smoke, especially indoors



The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, or NIOSH, appears ready to put a wet towel over smoke-generating devices that produce zinc chloride atmospheres.

NIOSH was asked to investigate the devices by the International Association of Fire Fighters, which has been concerned about the safety hazard that the devices pose during training exercises. NIOSH tests indicate that, if used indoors, the smoke produced by the devices contains hazardous amounts of hydrogen chloride and zinc chloride, as well as other chemicals considered to be carcinogenic.

Based on what it has learned so far, NIOSH has made several recommendations. One is that dense smoke clouds produced from the devices tested be considered immediately dangerous to life and health. This, according to the union, seems to fall within the bounds of the recently adopted National Fire Protection Association Standard 1500, “Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program,” which states that smoke-generating devices that produce hazardous atmospheres should not be used in test exercises. And, as a result, the IAFF is asking its member locals to demand that their departments stop using zincbased smoke-generating devices during training. An IAFF spokesman says use of blackened face plates accomplishes the same training goals.

The federal agency is expected to release its final report on the devices by the end of the year. NIOSH investigators are scheduled to explain some of their findings at the IAFF’s Ninth Symposium on the Occupational Health and Hazards of the Fire Service, being held October 18-22 in Anaheim, Calif.

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