All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Claudiu Lungu

Advisory Committee Members

Ilias Kavouras

Marie-Cecile Chalbot

Luke Naeher

Phil Demokritou

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Public Health


Given the close proximity to the fire front and limited use of respiratory protection, wildland firefighters are exposed to elevated levels of biomass smoke during regular occupational shifts. Due to the complex composition of biomass smoke, the relationships relating biomass smoke exposure to health outcomes has yet to be elucidated. In addition to occupational exposures, increasing intensity of wildfire events may place communities within close proximity to wildfires at risk of biomass smoke exposure. This study aimed to assess exposures to biomass smoke particles and quantify respiratory and cardiovascular health responses during active fire events using novel monitoring techniques. Personal exposures to smoke PNC, size distribution, and chemistry were characterized utilizing integrated and continuous monitors methods. PNC were monitored utilizing personal particle counting devices. Smoke chemical profiles were determined by NMR, TOR, and GC/MS. Additional monitoring of firefighter activity (speed, elevation, distance) and location were collected using GPS devices. Fine particles dominated exposure profiles with high spatial-temporal distribution during events. Organic carbon, elemental carbon, and PAHs were found to be more abundant among smaller particles. Cross-shift and ambulatory monitoring were used to assess respiratory and cardiovascular responses. Respiratory health was quantified by EBC functional group content and spirometry. Cross-shift declines in spirometry and EBC content changes were modifiable by event characteristics, indicating influence of exposure on respiratory health. To quantify cardiovascular impairment, this work measured cross-shift BP and AI% coupled with ambulatory BP and HR. BP and HR increased post-event, but showed stable changes within the event that trended to increase during elevated PNC exposures. Cross-shift changes in AI% also trended to decrease with increasing PNC suggesting a potential reduced artery compliance response to PNC. This work characterized Rx firefighters’ exposure to biomass smoke PM simultaneously with respiratory and cardiovascular health outcomes during occupational shifts. The objectives were: to characterize Rx firefighters’ exposures to biomass smoke PM composition and size distribution; to investigate respiratory health including lung function and respiratory inflammation during occupational exposures to biomass smoke PM; to investigate cardiovascular health, including HR, BP, and AI% with the effects of occupational exposures to biomass smoke PM and physical activity.

Included in

Public Health Commons



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