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Title: Occupational exposures in California wildland fire fighting.
Authors: Materna BL,  Jones JR,  Sutton PM,  Rothman N,  Harrison RJ
Journal: Am Ind Hyg Assoc J
Date: 1992 Jan
Branches: OEEB
PubMed ID: 1317093
PMC ID: not available
Abstract: Industrial hygiene measurement of exposures to wildland fire fighters was conducted in northern California during three consecutive fire seasons (1986-1989) in conjunction with three separate health effects studies. Chemicals that were monitored included carbon monoxide, total and respirable particulates, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), crystalline silica, aldehydes, and benzene. Measurements were taken at both wildland fires and prescribed (planned) burns. A variety of collection methods were employed--colorimetric detector tubes and a CO monitor were used for direct-reading area measurements; colorimetric diffusion tubes, filter cassettes, sorbent tubes, and passive vapor monitors were used for determining personal time-weighted average exposures. A new screening method (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Method 2539) was used to identify the presence of specific aldehydes. Results show that wildland fire fighters may at times be exposed to concentrations of carbon monoxide, total or respirable particulates, or silica at levels near or higher than recommended occupational exposure limits, although group means were generally well below the limits. Time-weighted average formaldehyde levels, measured in a few instances above 0.37 mg/m3 (0.3 ppm), indicate a potential for formaldehyde-induced eye or respiratory irritation under these conditions. Certain characteristics of the work such as high altitude, temperature, and breathing rate; extended work shifts; and additional off-shift exposures suggest that adjustment of 8-hr exposure limits may be necessary to provide adequate protection. In part, because of the rigors of performing industrial hygiene measurements under fire fighting conditions, data are limited and could not be considered representative of the full range of exposures fire fighters may encounter.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)