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Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2009 Apr;56(3):380-8. doi: 10.1007/s00244-008-9209-3. Epub 2008 Aug 20.

Respiratory irritants in Australian bushfire smoke: air toxics sampling in a smoke chamber and during prescribed burns.

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School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA, 6009, Australia.


Bushfire smoke contains an array of organic and inorganic compounds, including respirable and inspirable particles, aldehydes, and carbon monoxide. These compounds have been found to be a health hazard for firefighters in the United States. Despite the high frequency of bushfires in Australia, analyses of bushfire smoke components are scarce. As part of an occupational health study investigating the respiratory health effects of bushfire smoke in firefighters, air toxics sampling was undertaken in a smoke chamber and during prescribed burns. Levels of formaldehyde and acrolein were demonstrated at respectively 60% and 80% of the Short Term Exposure Limit in the smoke chamber. Carbon monoxide levels exceeded the peak limit of 400 ppm significantly. Although concentrations were lower during the prescribed burns, the study shows that Australian bushfire smoke contains air toxics of concern and provides justification for further research into the levels of air toxics measured at bushfires and the associated health impacts.

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