When Sophia Huston started working as a hotshot — a specialized wildland firefighter with advanced technical training — she was 19 and didn’t know what she was getting herself into. Although she was fit and exercised regularly, she wasn’t prepared for preseason training. The U.S Forest Service, which she worked for, is known for demanding and intense drills that weed out the unprepared. She said, “You’re going to hikes with full equipment and chainsaws.” “I weigh about 115 pounds and I’m carrying about upwards of 80 pounds of gear up a hill. My body and joints are feeling the strain. I wake up at night to eat because I don’t have enough calories.
Huston had her last period shortly after she started training. Huston has been working in fire six years and has not had her period in the last three years. She speculates that it is because she doesn’t get enough sleep, isn’t eating well, or the physical strain of the job. She isn’t sure what long-term effects working in fire will have on her fertility and health. She said, “I know it’s not good” for her. “It’s not very conducive for fertility and reproductive health.” Recent research shows that Huston’s intuition is correct.
Smoke and heat, as well as fire-suppressing chemicals and physical exertion needed to control fires, all have adverse effects on human health. However, there is very little research that has been published on the impact of firefighting on human health. Research has shown that smoking is linked to lung and cardiovascular diseases .. It is not known how long-term effects of smoke exposure on the body are.
Women are less aware of the ways that fighting fire and fire affect them. The national fire service is made up of a small percentage of women. This includes the structural fire departments, which are local departments that put out houses fires, and wildland crews that battle wildfires in wilderness areas and urban areas. They work in a system designed for men Even though short term smoke exposure can have an effect on pregnancy outcomes ,, female firefighters are not given any information by their employers about how fire might affect fertility or pregnancy. Megan Saylors, a federal career wildland firefighter, said that while smoke is not harmful, it can have a negative impact on fertility and pregnancy.
A Recent study that was published in Environmental Health expands on the limited research about how firefighting affects women’s reproductive health, as well as trans and nonbinary women who are able to get pregnant. By analyzing nearly 2,000 pregnancies in more than 1,000 female firefighters, the study found that self-reported miscarriage was 2.3 times more common among female firefighters than it was among female nurses, a cohort that is exposed to similar chemicals and work strains. Twenty-two percent of female firefighters miscarried, compared to 10 percent of female nurses.
The results are similar to those of a 2018 analysis showing that 27 percent of pregnancies in a cohort of 1,821 female firefighters ended in miscarriage — higher than the miscarriage rate in the general population, which is 13.5 percent. The new study also separated firefighters by their volunteer status and compared them to wildland firefighters.
The study showed that volunteer firefighters were at greater risk of miscarriage than career firefighters. Volunteer wildland firefighters were nearly three times more likely to have miscarriage than career wildland firefighters. Less than 5 percent of career firefighters are women, and 84 percent of the female firefighters in the U.S. are volunteers, which means a disproportionate percentage of the women who fight fires in the U.S. may be at increased risk of miscarriage.
Alesia, a postdoctoral candidate at the University of Arizona, said that she was surprised at the results of her study. Her initial hypothesis was that career firefighters were at greater risk for miscarriage because they are more likely to be exposed to fires than women who work as volunteers. “Generall