Over the past couple of years or so, there has been some push for “saunas” to be used to help detoxify Firefighters following fires.
Initially, it kinda makes sense to the untrained person-meaning-why wouldn’t you wanna sweat that cancerous stuff out following a fire? But like many things-when the science is looked at, the use of saunas may not be of value-and they actually may cause harm to Firefighters.
The ones who have been studying the “science” of Firefighter health longer than all others is the IAFF. And in this case, the IAFF has again, done research on the subject. The following is from their (attached) paper ” Sauna Use for Detoxification After Fire Suppression”
“IAFF understands that fire fighters are concerned about reducing health risks from their occupational chemical exposures. However, there are a number of reasons why IAFF does not recommend the use of saunas after fire suppression activities:
• The science on sauna use is still too limited to determine if this increases excretion of chemicals in a significant way. Most chemicals are not stored long term in the body and are excreted normally by the body.
• Saunas use immediately after fire suppression activities has the potential to increase absorption. Chemicals on the skin may evaporate and be inhaled. The heat in the sauna increases blood flow to the skin which also has the potential to increase absorption across the skin including any contaminants on the skin.
• Fire suppression can cause heat stress and heat illnesses. Just walking on a treadmill in turn-out gear increases body temperature.22 Increased body temperature results in sweating and fluid loss, which can cause serum electrolyte changes and dehydration. The lower blood volume from dehydration causes less blood to be pumped with each heartbeat. These effects contribute to the well-documented increased risk of heart attack during and in the hours immediately after fire fighting. Use of saunas after fire fighting may increase the potential for dehydration, heat-related illnesses and heart and kidney disorders.
In summary, at the present time, there is insufficient medical evidence to support a recommendation for use of saunas to remove toxicants from the body after fire fighting, and the potential adverse health effects outweigh potential benefits. ”
I also reached out to some other respected folks on the subject including
From FDNY Chief Medical Officer Dr David Prezant who stated “No science. No benefits. Potential Serious side effects….I actively oppose it.”
From Dr Denise Smith, Skidmore College NY, Illinois Fire Service Institute:
And my old compadre DaveS did some looking as well, and here are some details he found:
Are Firehouse Saunas Just There To Make You Feel Good?
So now what?
To me, it’s simple-they should not be used until our fire service focused “Dr” Brothers and Sisters feel that it is of value. Not sure we need much more than the research from “our” Dr’s to determine genuine, valid information – from the most respected in our profession.
The attached documents help back that up.