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Exposure to Particulate Matter and Estimation of Volatile Organic Compounds across Wildland Firefighter Job Tasks

Author(s): Kathleen M. Navarro, Molly West, Katelyn O'Dell, Paro Sen, I-Chen Chen, Emily V. Fischer, Rebecca S. Hornbrook, Eric C. Apel, Alan J. Hills, Alex Jarnot, Paul DeMott, Joseph W. Domitrovich
Year Published: 2021
Description:

Wildland firefighters are exposed to smoke-containing particulate matter (PM) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) while suppressing wildfires. From 2015 to 2017, the U.S. Forest Service conducted a field study collecting breathing zone measurements of PM 4 (particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter ≤4 μm) on wildland firefighters from different crew types and while performing various fire suppression tasks on wildfires. Emission ratios of VOC (parts per billion; ppb): PM1 (particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter ≤1 μm; mg/m3 ) were calculated using data from a separate field study conducted in summer 2018, the Western Wildfire Experiment for Cloud Chemistry, Aerosol Absorption, and Nitrogen (WE-CAN) Campaign. These emission ratios were used to estimate wildland firefighter exposure to acrolein, benzene, and formaldehyde. Results of this field sampling campaign reported that exposure to PM 4 and VOC varied across wildland firefighter crew type and job task. Type 1 crews had greater exposures to both PM 4 and VOCs than type 2 or type 2 initial attack crews, and wildland firefighters performing direct suppression had statistically higher exposures than those performing staging and other tasks (mean differences = 0.82 and 0.75 mg/m3 ; 95% confidence intervals = 0.38−1.26 and 0.41−1.08 mg/m3 , respectively). Of the 81 personal exposure samples collected, 19% of measured PM 4 exposures exceeded the recommended National Wildland Fire Coordinating Group occupational exposure limit (0.7 mg/m3 ). Wildland fire management should continue to find strategies to reduce smoke exposures for wildland firefighters.

Citation: Navarro KM, West MR, O’Dell K, Sen P, Chen I, Fischer EV, Hornbrook RS, Apel EC, Hills AJ, Jarnot A, DeMott P, and Domitrovich JW. 2021. Exposure to Particulate Matter and Estimation of Volatile Organic Compounds across Wildland Firefighter Job Tasks. Environ. Sci. Technol. 55 (17): 11795–11804. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.1c00847
Topic(s): Human Dimensions of Fire Management, Human Factors of Firefighter Safety, Smoke & Air Quality, Smoke Emissions
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 24569
Record updated: Jun 14, 2022