Occupational PAH exposures during prescribed pile burns

M. S. Robinson, T. R. Anthony, S. R. Littau, P. Herckes, X. Nelson, G. S. Poplin, J. L. Burgess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Wildland firefighters are exposed to particulate matter and gases containing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), many of which are known carcinogens. Our objective was to evaluate the extent of firefighter exposure to particulate and PAHs during prescribed pile burns of mainly ponderosa pine slash and determine whether these exposures were correlated with changes in urinary 1-hydroxypyrene (1-HP), a PAH metabolite. Personal and area sampling for particulate and PAH exposures were conducted on the White Mountain Apache Tribe reservation, working with 21 Bureau of Indian Affairs/Fort Apache Agency wildland firefighters during the fall of 2006. Urine samples were collected pre- and post-exposure and pulmonary function was measured. Personal PAH exposures were detectable for only 3 of 16 PAHs analyzed: naphthalene, phenanthrene, and fluorene, all of which were identified only in vapor-phase samples. Condensed-phase PAHs were detected in PM2.5 area samples (20 of 21 PAHs analyzed were detected, all but naphthalene) at concentrations below 1 μg m -3. The total PAH/PM2.5 mass fractions were roughly a factor of two higher during smoldering (1.06 ± 0.15) than ignition (0.55 ± 0.04 μg mg-1). There were no significant changes in urinary 1-HP or pulmonary function following exposure to pile burning. In summary, PAH exposures were low in pile burns, and urinary testing for a PAH metabolite failed to show a significant difference between baseline and post-exposure measurements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)497-508
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Occupational Hygiene
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2008


  • Particulate matter
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • Prescribed burn
  • Respirable dust
  • Wildland firefighter
  • Wood smoke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Occupational PAH exposures during prescribed pile burns'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this