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Environ Int. 2011 Feb;37(2):314-21. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2010.09.005. Epub 2010 Oct 16.

Exposure to bushfire smoke during prescribed burns and wildfires: firefighters' exposure risks and options.

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  • 1CSIRO Marine and Atmospsheric Research, PMB 1 Aspendale, Victoria, 3195, Australia.


Firefighters are exposed to known health-damaging air pollutants present in bushfire smoke and poorly managed exposure can result in serious health issues. A better understanding of exposure levels and the major factors influencing exposures is crucial for the development of mitigation strategies to minimise exposure risks and adverse health impacts. This study monitored air toxics within the breathing zone of firefighters at prescribed burns and at wildfires in Australia. The results showed that exposure levels were highly variable, with higher exposures (sometimes exceeding occupational exposure standards) associated with particular work tasks (such as patrol and suppression) and with certain burn conditions. The majority of firefighter's exposures were at low and moderate levels (~60%), however considerable attention should be given to the high (~30%) and very high (6%) exposure risk situations for which acute and chronic health risks are very likely and for which control strategies should be developed and implemented to minimise health risks.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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