1. #1
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    Post Pinellas Park Fla--Routine Physical Reveals Arsenic in Firefighters Blood

    St. Petersburg Times--South Pinellas

    Arsenic high in 2 firefighters' blood
    Health officials, awaiting results of tests on the two and the water at their station, say there's no need to worry.

    By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
    St. Petersburg Times
    published February 2, 2003


    PINELLAS PARK -- Firefighters at one station are undergoing tests to measure the amount of arsenic in their blood after routine physicals found elevated levels in two of them.

    "They have no idea at all what it could be. It could be something they picked up on a call someplace," Pinellas Park spokesman Tim Caddell said. "It could be something totally unrelated to the work at all."

    To be safe, he said, officials also tested the water at Fire Station 33, where the two work, in an effort to find how they might have ingested the arsenic. The station recently underwent extensive renovations. Test results should be available midweek, Caddell said.

    In the meantime, fire Chief Ken Cramer said, there is no reason for people who live near the station at 5000 82nd Ave. N to worry about possible health hazards. Folks should feel safe to live normally.

    "If there's any type of possible effect to the citizens, we're going to make it known," Cramer said.

    When the high levels were found, the Pinellas County Health Department was contacted.

    There is no need to panic, said Elaine Fulton-Jones, spokeswoman for the Health Department.

    It's not clear the whether arsenic came from the water or the station.

    "We don't know for sure the source yet," Fulton-Jones said. "One of them had been in Thailand. You can also get arsenic from fish. They both ate fish. They're still trying to determine what the origin might have been."

    Bert Williams, secretary-treasurer of the Pinellas Park branch of the International Association of Firefighters, said the two employees and the union think that the city has acted promptly and properly. The two are back at work.

    "I think they've done exactly what needs to be done," Williams said. "Hopefully, it's all just a minor scare."

    Information is sketchy. City officials declined to comment at length because little information is available and, they said, much of it -- such as the exact arsenic level in the firefighters' blood -- is private because it's health-related.

    It is known that the elevated arsenic levels were discovered during a routine physical. Because firefighters frequently encounter toxic materials in their work, the blood tests administered to them screen for many poisonous substances. In this case, the elevated levels of arsenic showed up.

    "It was a surprise to them that it was there," said Cramer, the chief.

    A report was filed with the Health Department, which suggested testing other firefighters and the water at the station. The department is also expected to give Pinellas Park a list of things to do and to test, Cramer said.

    "We're going to look at all the avenues, commonalities: what they eat, what they're drinking," the chief said.

    Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that, in combination with other substances, can be used as a wood preservative or as a pesticide, according to information released by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in Atlanta, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service.

    At high levels, it can kill. Exposure to lower levels for a long time can cause skin discoloration and small corns or warts, according to the ATSDR. It's been declared a carcinogen by the World Health Organization and the EPA because it can increase the risk of lung, skin, bladder, liver, kidney and prostate cancer.

    At low levels, it can cause nausea, vomiting, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm, damage to blood vessels and a pins-and-needles sensation in the hands and feet, according to the ATSDR. Breathing it in can cause a sore throat or irritated lungs.

    Other indications of exposure could include headaches, muscle spasms, abdominal pain, dehydration and a garlic odor to the victim's breath, Fulton-Jones said.

    Arsenic has been in the news recently.

    It was found in samples of Napoleon Bonaparte's hair, giving support to historians who think he was the victim of a slow murder by poison.

    The European Union has banned arsenic-treated wood because the poison leaks into the soil.

    Nationally, the lawyers who sued the tobacco industry have now sued the wood treatment industry. And wood treated with arsenic is banned for residential uses by the end of this year.

    Closer to home, former state Rep. Larry Crow, R-Palm Harbor, failed in an attempt to ban arsenic-treated wood from Florida's playgrounds.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  2. #2
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    Post Update

    Here is an updated story as well as links to another newpaper story. They are all similar.....so I just posted one and provided link to the other for those of you who are following this.
    __________________

    ST PETERSBURG TIMES--SOUTH PINELLAS

    Pinellas Park officials still looking for source of arsenic
    The city tests 10 more people for elevated levels of the poison, which first showed up in the blood of 7 firefighters.

    By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
    St. Petersburg Times
    published February 8, 2003

    PINELLAS PARK -- City officials tested 10 more people Friday to determine whether administrative workers at a Pinellas Park fire station have higher than normal levels of arsenic in their bloodstreams.

    Seven firefighters at Station 33 already have tested positive for elevated levels of the poison. Tests results for six other firefighters are expected Monday.

    City and fire union officials also met Friday with James Rizk, a certified industrial hygienist, to help pinpoint the source of the arsenic.

    "It's a mystery," said Pinellas Park district fire Chief Ray Hansen, who is coordinating the investigation.

    Rizk, president of OHC Environmental Engineering in Tampa, spent part of the morning interviewing Hansen, the assistant city manager and other fire officials to get a history of the problem.

    The first step, he said, is to understand what already has happened, confirm the integrity of the current tests and determine the type of arsenic.

    That could include examination of health records and the test methods, interviews with a toxicologist Pinellas Park has hired, and talks with affected firefighters about their eating, shopping and living patterns.

    "Find the common denominator first," Rizk said.

    It's too early, Rizk said, to talk about closing the station at 5000 82nd Ave. N, even temporarily. The station itself may not be at fault, he said. If it were, more people likely would have high arsenic levels.

    The city first realized the problem last week when two firefighters from Station 33 had high positive tests for arsenic during their annual physicals.

    Upon retesting, both firefighters showed even higher readings. One underwent a third test showing his arsenic level had dropped, but it was still higher than normal.

    The city had the station tested, with readings taken on everything from the walls to cooking utensils to air conditioning filters. But test were negative.

    Investigators did get high readings on some of the protective gear firefighters wear, and another spike on some floor tiles in the station's administrative area. The floor tile was installed less than two weeks ago.

    In the meantime, the city had the other 28 firefighters at Station 33 tested. Of the 22 results available, five were positive for elevated levels of the substance. That brought to seven the total number of firefighters with high levels of the poison.

    In the human body, an arsenic reading of 50 or higher is cause for concern. The seven tests ranged from a low of 52 to a high of 197.

    That's when Pinellas Park officials hired Rizk at $100 an hour to help them find the cause. They also hired a toxicologist at $300 an hour to assist in the investigation.

    And they ordered the 10 administrative employees at the station to be tested. Those results should be available next week.

    Although none of the firefighters appear to be suffering ill effects from the arsenic, Hansen said, they are concerned.

    "Some of these guys are kind of nervous," he told Rizk. "Just you walking around the building over there is going to make them feel better. We want to keep everybody comfortable."
    _________________

    OTHER STORIES

    http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald...te/5133669.htm
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  3. #3
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    Default Another sad story-another statistic

    Well may be in this case,we should cheer up,that the city officials are at least pretending,that they are doing something for these guys.I don't remember exactly the city,but another FFs from Florida were exposed to toxic stuff and in their cases the city would tell them that they are in perfect health.So the city does not have to pay their medical expensis.Now,one of them is in a wheelchair,the other one cann't take his oxygen mask of his face,and who knows how many more firefighters are outthere,being sick and not knowing about it.That makes you sick,I would assume that the city would be the first one to appreciated firefighters,and take care of them.Where would the city officials sit their *****is,if the firefighters let the city burn down!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. #4
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    Default Oh one more thing,

    did you notice,the city did not forget to mention to the press,how much the fun cost them to pay for the experts?

  5. #5
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    Post UPDATE

    ST. Petersburg Times---South Pinellas

    New tests on firefighters find four free of arsenic
    Tainted seafood is suspected in the high levels discovered during earlier tests of seven crew members.
    \
    By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
    St. Petersburg Times
    published February 20, 2003

    PINELLAS PARK -- Additional tests have found no traces of arsenic in the blood of four Pinellas Park firefighters who previously tested positive for the poison, city officials said Wednesday.

    The good news brought tentative sighs of relief from Pinellas Park officials. Test results are expected this week from the other three firefighters whose blood showed higher than acceptable arsenic levels.

    The type of arsenic suggests it may have come from something the firefighters ate, such as seafood.

    Pinellas Park officials had faced the possibility that Fire Station 33, where the seven work, was the source of the contamination.

    "I'm very relieved that at this point we don't have any employees who are ill," Pinellas Park Fire Chief Ken Cramer said. "We're still looking to find the cause of the problem."

    Cramer said he's not sure if other tests are scheduled.

    Cramer said he suspected tainted seafood might be the cause of the high arsenic levels. Fish is a favorite food, he said. Many firefighters who fish on their time off bring their catch to share with colleagues. Some seafood is a common source of arsenic.

    While city officials are cautiously optimistic, firefighters still have many questions.

    "I think that everybody whose levels are coming down feel relieved," said Jerry Lubick, vice president of the Pinellas Park branch of the International Association of Firefighters.

    But, Lubick said, firefighters wonder if the latest tests are being overemphasized.

    "Are we going to pick the test we like best?" he asked.

    It's unclear so far why one test would be better or more accurate than another. It's equally unclear, he said, why levels that were so high would suddenly drop to nothing.

    One question firefighters want to ask the doctors, he said, is if "it is reasonable to expect readings to fluctuate that much in this time period."

    The city first realized it had a problem late last month when two Pinellas Park firefighters tested for high levels of arsenic during their annual physicals.

    When retested, both showed even higher levels. One was tested a third time and the level had dropped, but not below an acceptable level.

    The city tested the station at 5000 82nd Ave. N, with readings taken on everything from walls to cooking utensils to the protective gear firefighters wear. While most readings were negative, some spikes were noted on the protective clothing and some floor tiles in the administrative area.

    The city hired a toxicologist and an environmental engineer to help discover the source of the problem.

    Officials also tested all firefighters and administrative personnel at the station.

    Most tests were negative, with high arsenic levels showing in the blood of only the original two and five more firefighters.

    The investigation then centered on those firefighters' lifestyles, including their food choices and whether they smoke.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  6. #6
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    Post Update

    ST. PETERSBURG TIMES--(SOUTH PINELLAS)

    Tests give firefighters the all clear
    A toxicologist says arsenic in Pinellas Park firefighters' systems was a relatively harmless type found in shellfish.
    By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
    St. Petersburg Times
    published February 28, 2003


    PINELLAS PARK -- Final tests have found normal traces of arsenic in the blood of all Pinellas Park firefighters who previously tested positive for high levels of the poison.

    The tests also indicate most of the arsenic was the type found in food sources, such as shellfish, causing a toxicologist and city officials to conclude the firefighters' health was never threatened.

    "At this time we are confident that we do not have a workplace arsenic problem and that our firefighters are not at risk of ill effects from arsenic poisoning," District Fire Chief Ray Hansen wrote in a final report about the incident.

    The elevated arsenic levels were discovered last month after two firefighters at Station 33, 5000 82nd Ave. N, tested positive for arsenic during an annual physical.

    Subsequent testing found the levels had increased, so Pinellas Park officials had all 40 employees at the station tested. Five other firefighters were found to have elevated levels.

    Officials also tested the station and hired a toxicologist and environmental engineer to help determine the source of the problem.

    Tests ordered by the toxicologist showed the arsenic in six firefighters' systems was a relatively harmless type commonly found in most people's diets, particularly if they eat seafood. Thus, Hansen said, if someone eats shrimp one night and is tested the next day, he would likely show high arsenic levels.

    The only reason there are not "arsenic alarms" going off in society as a whole, Hansen said, is because most people are not tested for heavy metals.

    Pinellas Park firefighters are tested regularly because they daily face the possibility of encountering arsenic or other hazardous materials. Hansen said one of the original two firefighters did test positive for another type of arsenic, which is found in pesticides and pressure-treated wood. But that man's arsenic levels are down to the acceptable range and he, like the others, is showing no symptoms of arsenic poisoning.

    The toxicologist, Cynthia Lewis-Younger, said she does not think it came from firefighting or the workplace, but she recommended that he have a followup test in six to eight weeks.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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