Training Smoke Could Harm Firefighting Trainees — Here’s How To Make It Safe

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I’ve gotten to know a lot of the firefighters in my hometown, and I’ve come to learn just how dangerous their profession can be. They train tirelessly to keep me, my family, and my neighbors safe, and I want the same standards of care and safety for them. That’s why I was devastated to learn that their own training exercises could be harming them.

Most states require firefighter training in simulated smoky conditions, and this effect is typically achieved with training smoke churned out by fog machines. This fog is generated from a formula made from glycols. When broken down, glycols can turn into unsafe, carcinogenic substances such as formaldehyde. Reports have shown that continued exposure to formaldehyde and other glycols can lead to lung illnesses, long-term health problems, and even cancer. In fact, it’s so unsafe that Dow and other leading manufacturers have all advised against using glycols in fog production which leading fog solution manufacturers have ignored.

Dow Chemical: Dow does not support the use of propylene glycol in electronic cigarettes, nor in artificial (theatrical) fogs due to possible effects on the eye, nose, throat, and respiratory tract membranes as well as the absence of information on potential long term effects from prolonged inhalation of (fine) droplets of propylene glycol.

At first, I thought I was making a big deal out of nothing. After all, firefighters aren’t breathing in this stuff every day, and real smoke is certainly much worse for their health. Then I remembered a high-profile case from 2010, in which a 15-year-old in St. Louis tragically died after spending a year in a vegetative state shortly after inhaling too much glycol based fog at a haunted house. If that could happen after just a few minutes in a haunted house, it could certainly happen while our firefighters go through a smoke training simulation. Our firefighters protect us every day and put their lives on the line for ordinary citizens, so why are we letting them train with substances that could harm their health, or even their lives?

As awareness grows regarding the dangers of glycol, there’s a growing interest in safer, natural alternatives. Glycol-based fog liquid is still the market leader, unfortunately, but there is a growing demand for glycol-free, water-based fog machine liquid. This type of all-natural fog liquid uses glycerin, a plant-derived material that doesn’t generate toxic byproducts, in place of harmful glycol. Glycerin has been rigorously tested for safety and quality; the National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health found no toxicity or potential to irritate the skin or eyes across nearly 60 glycerin tests.

You would expect Glycerin-based fog liquid to be much more expensive than glycol based fog but in-fact it is also cheaper and more efficient than its glycol counterpart. It generates 33% more fog, so these liquids last longer. Not only does a single bottle go further and create a thicker, more dense fog, but it costs $3 per gallon less than other glycol-based fog formulas. Plus, since the new fog formula doesn’t damage equipment like the old, glycol-based formula, firefighters won’t need to replace their training equipment as often.

From my research, Simply Fog is the only company manufacturing these safer, more affordable alternatives to glycol-based fog machine formulas. Made in Janesville Wisconsin, Simply Fog’s safe and glycol-free formula produces thick, realistic smoke without damaging equipment. Most importantly, firefighters can conduct their training exercises with the confidence that the fog won’t harm their health. Firefighting already comes with enough hazards — I hope this safer solution comes to my hometown’s fire department soon.

To learn more about Simply Fog’s natural alternative to Glycol Based fog, you can click below for more information.

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