Year Published: 2016
Description: Each year, the general public and wildland firefighters in the US are exposed to smoke from wildland fires. As part of an effort to characterize health risks of breathing this smoke, a review of the literature was conducted using five major databases, including PubMed and MEDLINE Web of Knowledge, to identify smoke components that present the highest hazard potential, the mechanisms of toxicity, review epidemiological studies for health effects and identify the current gap in knowledge on the health impacts of wildland fire smoke exposure. Respiratory events measured in time series studies as incidences of disease-caused mortality, hospital admissions, emergency room visits and symptoms in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients are the health effects that are most commonly associated with community level exposure to wildland fire smoke. A few recent studies have also determined associations between acute wildland fire smoke exposure and cardiovascular health end-points. These cardiopulmonary effects were mostly observed in association with ambient air concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5). However, research on the health effects of this mixture is currently limited. The health effects of acute exposures beyond susceptible populations and the effects of chronic exposures experienced by the wildland firefighter are largely unknown. Longitudinal studies of wildland firefighters during and/or after the firefighting career could help elucidate some of the unknown health impacts of cumulative exposure to wildland fire smoke, establish occupational exposure limits and help determine the types of exposure controls that may be applicable to the occupation.