June 2, 2008 - Cantimer Inc. said today it was awarded a $996,000 contract by the U.S. government’s Technical Support Working Group to develop a portable, real-time and noninvasive hydration measurement and monitoring device for use by firefighters and other first response personnel.
Dehydration is a major health concern in the first responder community. Mild dehydration can lead to compromised physical and cognitive performance. Moderate to severe dehydration creates a significantly increased risk for debilitating and potentially deadly heat illnesses. For example, firefighters perform physically demanding work in heavy protective clothing, which increases the production of sweat as the body works harder than normal to self-regulate its core temperature. Warm or hot ambient conditions, as well as exposure to radiant heat from fires, increase the challenge. Dehydration compromises sweat production, and the resulting rise in core temperature creates increased cardiovascular stress.
The U.S. Fire Administration (part of FEMA - the Federal Emergency Management Agency) estimates more than half of firefighter line-of-duty deaths result from cardiovascular events or heat illnesses. Thus ensuring adequate pre-response hydration and on-scene re-hydration is an increasing area of focus for occupational medicine experts focused on the health, safety and performance of firefighters. Nonquantitative or observational hydration assessment techniques may not consistently ensure that all dehydrated and at-risk individuals are identified and get proper medical attention. Cantimer’s quantitative approach is based on assessing the composition of a small sample of saliva, with a portable, hand-held device.
Cantimer intends to collaborate on the project with Denise Smith, Ph.D., a professor in the exercise science department at Skidmore College. Dr. Smith is also a research scientist at the Illinois Fire Service Institute at the University of Illinois.