There are few reports of long term follow up of symptoms in firemen. In a four year study of symptoms in a group of 96 firemen (31 non-smokers, 40 smokers, and 25 ex-smokers) of which 89 remained in the study for its full duration a volunteer control group of 69 male non-smokers from a variety of occupations was also followed up. A history of symptoms and of smoking habits was obtained on entry to the study, then every six months for two years, and annually for a further two years. All those remaining in the study after four years were interviewed and a history of their use of breathing apparatus and of being affected by smoke and fumes was obtained. Symptom frequency was least in control subjects, intermediate in non-smokers and ex-smokers, and most in smokers. Before the study period (history obtained at the first session) smoking increased symptoms 3.9 times and being affected by smoke in the past increased symptoms 2.3 times, compared with non-smokers who had not been affected by smoke. In smokers who had also been affected by smoke symptoms increased by 9.1 times, suggesting a multiplicative effect. During the study period symptom frequency was increased about 4.4 times in smokers and 5.7 times in those who had been affected by smoke at work in the past compared with non-smokers who had not been affected by smoke. In smokers who had also been affected by smoke symptom frequency increased by 7.4 times, the combined effects of the two types of smoker being less than additive. These results suggest that being affected by smoke and fumes at work may be a cause of long term symptoms in firemen. In firemen who are non-smokers and who had not been affected by smoke symptom frequency was similar to that observed in the control subjects. Thus the current routine use of breathing apparatus appears to be effective in preventing long term symptoms.
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