The Current

'Dr. Fire' concerned about toxicity risks in Fort McMurray

Not much is known about the effects of sustained exposure to ash and debris on frontline firefighters. But what is known is there are health risks. The Current speaks to a fire safety researcher concerned for Fort McMurray residents returning to burnt homes.
Vyto Babrauskas, aka Dr. Fire, says there's an abysmal lack of research on long-term risks of exposure to fire and ash. (CAOS91.1/CP)

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As Fort McMurray residents wonder when they can return home and talks of rebuilding and cleanup begin, one fire safety researcher says there are "real concerns" about  the charred city.

Vyto Babrauskas, a.k.a. Dr. Fire, says there's a real lack of research on long-term risks of exposure to fire and ash.

"The dangers might be that they're going to encounter dioxins…all sorts of exotic hydrocarbons and that these are chemicals which could lead to cancer," says Babrauskas, a fire science consultant and former fire safety researcher for the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. 

Research from California fires that have burned through homes and communities suggests such blazes leave a threatening legacy of caustic ash and toxic heavy metals. (Scott Olsen/Getty Images)

Not much is known about the effects of sustained exposure to ash and debris on frontline responders — but what is known is that the toxicity poses health risks.

"There are real concerns. The answers are nowhere near as satisfactory that we like," says Babrauskas.

This segment was produced by The Current's Marc Apollonio.

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