Differences in Fine Particle Exposure and Estimated Pulmonary Ventilation Rate with Respect to Work Tasks of Wildland Firefighters at Prescribed Burns: A Repeated Measures Study

2022-06-02

Wildland firefighters (WLFFs) are exposed to a mixture of chemicals found in wildland fire smoke and emissions from nonwildland-fuel smoke sources such as diesel. We investigated compositional differences in exposure to particulate matter and explored differences in ventilation rate and potential inhaled dose relative to the work tasks of WLFFs. Repeated measures on ten professional and two volunteer firefighters were collected on prescribed burn and nonburn days. Personal monitoring consisted of real-time and gravimetric fine particulate matter (PM2.5), carbon monoxide (CO), and accelerometer measurements to estimate ventilation rate and potential dose of PM2.5. The fine particulate matter was analyzed for levoglucosan (LG) and light absorbing carbon as a surrogate for black carbon (BC). Breathing zone personal exposure concentrations of PM2.5, LG, BC, and CO were higher on burn days (P < 0.05). Differences in exposure concentrations were observed between burn day tasks (P < 0.05) with firefighters managing fire boundaries (holders) being exposed to higher CO and LG concentrations and less BC concentrations than those conducting lighting (lighters). While no statistical difference in PM2.5 exposure measures was observed between the two tasks, holders in the study tended to be exposed to higher PM2.5 concentrations (~1.4×), while lighters tended to have more inhaled amounts of PM2.5 (~1.3×). Our findings demonstrate possible diversity in the sources of particulate matter exposure at the fireline and suggest the potential importance of using dose as a metric of inhalation exposure in occupational or other settings.

Authors: Anna M Adetona, Olorunfemi Adetona, Ryan T Chartier, Michael H Paulsen, Christopher D Simpson, Stephen L Rathbun, Luke P Naeher
; Full Source: Annals of work exposures and health 2022 Jun 2;wxac037. doi: 10.1093/annweh/wxac037.