Tanvi P.


 The Effect Of The Fire On The Respiratory System of The Factory Workers

        When the factory workers first recognized the early signs of the fire, many of them rushed out to save their lives. They followed the emergency exit paths and finally realized their importance. Though many escaped the fire, almost all of the factory workers were negatively impacted by the fire. Various aspects of the fire triggered health risks for the factory workers.

Charcoal is created by heating wood to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen.

           The smoke affected the respiratory system of the factory worker. The respiratory system function with the aid of the lungs to take in oxygen and diffuse it to the capillaries from the alveoli and diffuse carbon dioxide, as waste, from the capillaries to the alveoli to be exhaled from the body. Forest fire smoke is made up of a mixture of gases and very small particles produced by the burning of wood and organic matter. These small particles and gases can be harmful to your health. Your body reacts to the particles by increasing tears and mucous production to try to block the smoke particles. Many of the factory workers noticed symptoms that were aligned with the bodies increased production of tears and mucous. Symptoms include runny noses, scratchy throats, irritated sinuses and headaches due to the particles or the irritating smells. In the long run, the increased production of mucous makes the body highly susceptible to colds and allergies and, eventually, to cancer of the throat and lungs as the smoke irritates the mucous membranes. Irritants and smoke from the fire caused asthmatic episodes in some of the factory workers, the smoke inflamed their sensitive airways. Asthma as defined by Mayo Clinic is a condition in which a person’s airways become inflamed, narrow and swell, and produce extra mucus, which makes it harder for the workers  to breathe. When the workers with asthma were exposed to the smoke and the harmful particles in it, their airways swell up, tighten up, constrict and produce too much mucous. Furthermore, an asthma sufferer’s bronchial tubes (airways the connect the lungs to tiny air sacs called alveoli, the alveoli loosely connect to the capillaries making it the site of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange in the respiratory system) are highly sensitive to triggers such as smoke and when the particles in the smoke settle on the lining of the bronchial tubes the worker might have experienced asthmatic attacks. The workers with asthma then started to wheeze and cough and developed congestion, itchy eyes and runny noses. Many times when their asthma is triggered, the workers utilize rescue inhalers that contain albuterol, which binds to beta-adrenergic receptors on the surface of smooth cells lining the small airways in the lungs; muscles relax and airways become less constricted when albuterol binds to the smooth cell lining. But between the chaos during the fire and the hasty want to exit the building the some workers with asthma failed to find their rescue inhalers which were at their work stations.Furthermore, the inhaled smoke and gas particles harm the lung structures such as bronchioles and alveoli causing the lungs to be more susceptible to respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, as the viruses easily enter the lungs with weakened defense systems.



    Figure A shows the location of the lungs and airways in the body. Figure B shows a cross-section of a normal airway. Figure C shows a cross-section of an airway during asthma symptoms.


                The smoke can also lead to sinusitis – defined by Mayo Clinic as a condition in which the cavities around the nasal passages become inflamed and swollen. When the workers inhaled the smoke, their cilia (hair-like structures in the sinus membranes that sweep the secretions out of the nasal passages and to the back of the throat) become impaired causing the nasal drainage to slow down. Hence collecting mucous in the sinus cavities and causing more congestion, resulting in sinus headaches or sinus infections.

Sinusitis Points:

               The smoke can also cause cardio obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbation. COPD is a progressive lung disorder, that makes it difficult to breath. Though tobacco smoking is the leading cause of COPD, a heavy and consistent exposure to irritants such as smoke or pollutants can cause COPD, thus some workers left the fire with the diagnosis of COPD. In COPD, less air flows through the airways because of damages such as when the airways and air sacs that are elastic and stretchy so that they can fill up with air, lose their elastic quality. Or the air sac and airway walls may be destroyed. Or the airway walls become thick and inflamed or the airways exponentially increase in the amount of mucus produced, therefore clogging them. When the hazardous smoke travels down the workers windpipes (trachea) and into their lungs through two large tubes (bronchi) and divides into smaller tubes  (bronchioles) that end in clusters of tiny air sacs (alveoli) which have very thin walls that are damaged and stretched by the smoke. Thus reducing the area for exchange between the air sac – that are now large and have decreased their surface area coverage – and the capillaries. COPD includes two main conditions – emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Emphysema is when the walls between the air sacs are damaged leading to fewer and larger air sacs therefore reducing the amount of gas exchanged in the lungs. Chronic bronchitis is when the the lining of the airways is constantly irritated and inflamed,  forming thick mucous and making it hard to breathe.


              Smoke inhalation occurred when the workers breathed in the products of combustion during a fire. Combustion is the result of the rapid breakdown of a
substance by thermal energy. Smoke is a mixture of heated particles and gases. Inhaling the smoke may have caused coughing, shortness in breathing pattern , hoarseness, headaches, trouble swallowing and acute mental status changes in the workers. The carbon monoxide in the combustion may have caused the headaches. Additionally, the constant inhalation of carbon monoxide may have caused poisoning as the workers bodies may have replaced the oxygen in their red blood cells with carbon monoxide. This prevents oxygen from reaching the tissues and organs causing them to decrease activity and contaminate. Carbon monoxide is formed by the incomplete combustion of carbon, and when it enters the blood system it may replace oxygen in red blood cells and bind to hemoglobin-the protein in red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body. At sufficient concentrations, carbon monoxide can cause reduced exercise capacity as it prevents oxygen from reaching the tissues and organs, therefore causing the workers to slow down as they exit and even pass out as the oxygen depletion causes headaches.


fire-rages-through-a-building-in-tottenham-pic-pa-955458095           To conclude, though the fire destroyed the factory it was more destructive in regards to the workers who never saw it coming. The arsonist escaped without any physical damage but the factory workers that were caught up in the chaos had detrimental health effects that were associated with the fire. Including asthma and COPD exacerbation, sinusitis, smoke inhalation effects and carbon monoxide poisoning The factory workers went in that day happy and healthy and let with numerous damages to their respiratory systems.


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