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Ann Occup Hyg. 2013 Oct;57(8):979-91. doi: 10.1093/annhyg/met024. Epub 2013 Jun 27.

Exposure of wildland firefighters to carbon monoxide, fine particles, and levoglucosan.

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Department of Environmental Health Science, The University of Georgia, College of Public Health, 206 EHS Building, 150 Green Street, Athens, GA 30602, USA;


Wildland firefighters are occupationally exposed to elevated levels of woodsmoke. Eighteen wildland firefighters were monitored for their personal exposure to particulate matter with median aerodynamic diameter of 2.5 microns (PM2.5), levoglucosan (LG), and carbon monoxide (CO) at 30 prescribed burns at the Savannah River Site, South Carolina. Linear mixed effect models were used to investigate the effect on exposure of various factors and to examine whether the firefighters were able to qualitatively estimate their own exposures. Exposure to PM2.5 and CO was higher when firefighters performed 'holding' tasks compared with 'lighting' duties, whereas exposures to CO and LG were higher when burns were in compartments with predominantly pine vegetation (P < 0.05). Exposures to PM2.5 (64-2068 µg m(-3)) and CO (0.02-8.2 p.p.m.) fell within the ranges observed in previous studies. Some recommended shorter term exposure limits for CO were exceeded in a few instances. The very low LG:PM2.5 ratios in some samples suggest that the exposures of wildland firefighters to pollutants at prescribed burns may be substantially impacted by non-woodsmoke sources. The association of the qualitative exposure estimation of the firefighters with actual PM2.5 and CO measurements (P < 0.01) indicates that qualitative estimation may be used to assess exposure in epidemiology studies.


carbon monoxide; levoglucosan; occupational exposure; particulate matter; prescribed burn; wildland firefighter

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