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Discover the Deadly Toxic Twins: Hydrogen Cyanide and Carbon Monoxide

People's Burn Foundation launches fourth phase of firefighter education program at FDIC

INDIANAPOLIS, April 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Continuing in the tradition of providing innovative education programs to our nation's fire service the People's Burn Foundation is pleased to unveil the fourth installment of the To Hell and Back burn prevention and safety series. To Hell and Back IV: Cyanide takes participants inside the body through advanced 3-D visualizations to reveal how Hydrogen Cyanide and Carbon Monoxide work together to cause devastating effects on the human body. The program will launch Wednesday, April 22nd at the Fire Department Instructor's Conference (FDIC) beginning at 10:30 a.m. in rooms 103/104 of the Indianapolis Convention Center.


The program arrives at a critical time as experts are shedding new light on fire fatalities relative to both civilians and those within the fire service. A 2006 NFPA study reveals 87-percent of people who died in fires had toxic blood concentrations of cyanide. According to Rob Schnepp, Assistant Chief of the Alameda County Fire Department and President of the Cyanide Poisoning Treatment Coalition, these victims died from breathing the smoke long before the fire killed them. These findings are critical to firefighters as researchers are now finding that job related deaths once thought to be related to lack of oxygen, over-exertion, or heart attack in some instances can instead be directly related back to cyanide poisoning.

For generations firefighters have donned the nickname "smoke eaters" as somewhat of a badge of honor. Changes in building materials, however, have changed the smoke that today's firefighters are breathing compared to that of previous generations. Televisions, computers, bedding, carpeting and laminates in today's cabinetry are just a few of the items causing fires to develop at a considerably faster rate than in the past. The increased use of synthetics and plastics such as nylon, polyurethane, and synthetic rubber now create a hotter and more toxic smoke than ever before.

"Firefighters who breathe fire smoke are exposing themselves to the same deadly levels of hydrogen cyanide," said Schnepp. As a result, it is imperative that firefighters change their perspective towards smoke. To Hell and Back IV: Cyanide will educate firefighters on how Hydrogen Cyanide kills, how to prevent exposures, and review available treatments.

To Hell and Back IV: Cyanide builds on an established series of firefighter, EMS, and community based training programs developed by the People's Burn Foundation launched previously at FDIC in 2006, 2007 and 2008. The program series is designed to significantly impact the statistics of career and volunteer fire deaths and burn injuries by changing complacent behaviors, raising awareness on the limitations of fire protection gear, and teaching basic situational awareness.

"The Cyanide program is an extension of the three previous programs already in use by the fire service," said Justin Phillips, Director of Education for the People's Burn Foundation. "To Hell and Back IV uses the same advanced technology allowing us the opportunity to better reach members of the fire service in a unique way. As a result we are able to stress the importance of proper use of their safety gear including their Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBAs) to greatly reduce the threat of being exposed to these toxic and deadly gases found within the smoke of the fires they fight on a daily basis."

Proper use of SCBA will not only reduce a firefighter's risk of death by prolonged exposure of this toxic smoke, but it can also reduce the long-term affects from minimal exposure over longer periods of time. A firefighter may walk off the scene of a fire but that does not mean carbon monoxide and cyanide did not affect them. The toxins have devastating, cumulative and long term effects. Exposure over time shows increased instances of various painful and dangerous conditions including weakness, chronic lung problems, heart disease, heart attack, stroke and brain damage that could lead to dementia.

The DVD and on-line formats will demonstrate to firefighters how smoke and cyanide directly affect their bodies, including the ability to incapacitate them within just a few seconds; teach them key ways to avoid exposure and what first responders and local hospitals can do in the event of exposure. Currently, there are two types of antidotes available that have been approved by the FDA for use in the United States. Hydroxocobalamin, or Cyanokit, can be used for confirmed or suspected cyanide poisonings. The cyanide antidote kit, also called the Lilly Kit, Pasadena Kit, or Taylor Kit uses different active ingredients and usually should not be used in the setting of smoke inhalation.

All four To Hell and Back programs are distributed free of charge to each of the more than 38,000 fire departments across the nation and were funded with an Assistance to Firefighters Grant through the Department of Homeland Security. The United States postal service will deliver a copy of To Hell and Back IV to every fire department in the United States following the program launch at FDIC this month.

For more information about any of the To Hell and Back programs, visit the People's Burn Foundation website at

For more information on advanced and technical data related to cyanide poisoning in smoke visit the Cyanide Poisoning Treatment Coalition website at

SOURCE People's Burn Foundation
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