OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Fire Department is seeking donations to purchase a detox sauna, a method fire departments are using to prevent cancers caused by carcinogens that are unavoidable on the job.
Derek Fye, first class firefighter with Ottumwa Fire Department, said he read about the therapy in a firefighter magazine. With studies suggesting that firefighters are more likely than the general public to develop cancer, Fye thought that any way to lower the risk would be a good thing.
Fye shared the information with Fire Chief Tony Miller and Deputy Chief Cory Benge “and they were all for it,” Fye said. “So everyone’s definitely on board with it.”
Sauna detoxification is popular in the private sector and has been in use in fire departments for several years. My Firefighter Nation magazine reported on the trend in 2011. References to firefighters detoxifying date back to the late 1980s.
While sweating is primarily a function for regulating body temperature according to health experts, it also excretes excess salts and other electrolytes including ammonia, sodium, cholesterol and alcohol, making it a detoxifier.
Firefighters are exposed to toxins on a routine basis while fighting fires, according to a 2015 article by Fire Apparatus magazine. They handle contaminated personal protective equipment and firefighting equipment. The infrared sauna from SaunaRay would allow firefighters to sweat out any smoke, toxins and carcinogens that are absorbed into their skin at a fire.
During the detox process, the firefighters ride a stationary bike inside a sauna at low to moderate work load for 30 to 45 minutes following a fire, allowing contaminants to be expelled through sweat. Then they shower, washing the contaminants away.
The saunas aren’t very large, Fye said, and the department has a space in the basement prepared for it.
The department needs $6,000 to purchase the sauna, Fye said. Donations can be mailed or taken to the main fire station at 201 N. Wapello St. in Ottumwa.
Reporter Winona Whitaker can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @courierwinona.
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