Physician in lifesaving research for firefighters, victims

Dr. Dery (left) with Fire Chief John Clark of the Delta Township Fire Department.

Published: Dec. 2, 2013

Firefighters in the Lansing area are protecting themselves from cyanide gas thanks to the research of Sparrow Emergency Department Physician John Dery, D.O., FACEP, FACOEP.

Dr. Dery, in partnership with Delta Township Fire Department, has been researching the impacts of cyanide gas on the body and measuring levels of the gas present at the scene of a fire. Cyanide gas is released in a fire and continues to be present long after the fire is extinguished.

"Firefighters would remove their fire service mask to walk around after a fire, and we found they were being exposed to low levels of cyanide," said Dr. Dery.

Firefighters experience high rates of lung and testicular cancer, and the frequent exposure to low levels of cyanide could be behind that, said Dr. Dery. The low levels of cyanide can also exacerbate existing medical issues.

This research is being used to help firefighters determine the best time to remove their safety gear following a fire.

Dr. Dery's research is also leading to the use of CyanoKit, a medication used for cyanide poisoning, at the scene of a fire for smoke inhalation victims. Paramedics can administer the medication in the ambulance to get the cyanide out of Patients' systems right away.

The Delta Township and East Lansing fire departments have the medication available, and Lansing is soon to follow, said Dr. Dery.