Monitoring Portuguese Firefighters Exposed to Smoke During a Prescribed Fire

Proceedings of The 3rd World Conference on Climate Change and Global Warming

Year: 2023



Monitoring Portuguese Firefighters Exposed to Smoke During a Prescribed Fire

Joana V. Barbosa, Maria C. M. Alvim-Ferraz,Fernando G. Martins, Sofia I. V. Sousa




Wildland fires smoke releases significant amounts of harmful pollutants to the atmosphere, such as carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulate matter (PM) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), that directly affect air quality and also people involved in firefighting operations. In particular, firefighters are at increased risk of developing adverse health effects, like decreased lung function which has often been associated with exposure to high levels of these harmful substances. Thus, this study aimed to evaluate the exposure of firefighters to smoke pollutants during the fire, through comparison with occupational exposure standard values. Pollutants’ concentrations were obtained during a prescribed fire (intentionally ignited, low-intensity fires made for land management) performed in 2021, in the North of Portugal, using two different personal monitoring equipment, one for NO2, SO2, CO and VOCs (MultiraeLite) and other for PM2.5 particles (TSI-Sidepack). Firefighters were selected according to their tasks/positions in the fire (ignition or containment with hand tools). Pollutants’ concentrations were also monitored in a fire truck, positioned far from firefighting (at approximately 30-50 m). To evaluate firefighters’ exposure, 8 h time-weighted averages (TWA) and short-term exposure (15 min) limits (STEL) were calculated and compared with the Portuguese occupational exposure legislation. PM2.5 mean concentration ranged between 15.3-46.9 mg/m3, while NO2, SO2, CO and VOCs mean concentrations ranged between 0.1-0.6, 0.3-1.5, 9.3-17.1 and 0.3-2.2 mg/m3, respectively. Peak limit values were also analyzed. The maximum peak reached was 100.0 mg/m3 for PM2.5 and 8.0, 26.5, 361.0 and 30.0 mg/m3 for NO2, SO2, CO and VOCs, respectively. Finally, TWA values were exceeded for PM2.5 and STEL values were exceeded for SO2.

keywords: firefighters’ exposure, prescribed fires, smoke pollutants