Measuring firefighters' personal exposures to air toxins during bushfires

Thermo Fisher Scientific

Wednesday, 02 September, 2020



Bushfire smoke is a complex mixture of toxic air contaminants that might be inhaled while fighting fires. These air toxins can be present as gases or as particulate matter in the air. Field measurements are required in order to better understand the frequency and magnitude of exposure to air toxins, to identify situations with high exposure risks, and to determine the key factors that lead to high exposure levels. If present at elevated levels, these compounds can potentially cause short-term health effects such as headaches, dizziness, irritation, fatigue, lack of concentration, which makes working in the field extremely dangerous or long-term health effects such as cardio-respiratory health effects, reduced lung function, cancer.

To protect the short- and long-term health of firefighters it is important that there is measurement and evaluation of air toxins in both wild and prescribed fires in Australia so that exposure levels for specific conditions may be characterised.

In order to develop control strategies to minimise their exposure to air toxins, it is essential to measure and evaluate their exposures. The measurements need to be carried out within the breathing zone of the firefighters, to monitor the air the firefighters breathe. Therefore, sampling devices that measure the various toxicants need to be worn by the firefighters during their work shift.

Casella offers a range of monitoring devices that are effective, rugged, and robust to use in field. The devices can be used for real-time assessment or for assessment at a lab.

Casella Cyclone

Casella Cyclone respirable fraction sampling heads are specifically designed to separate out the smaller dust fractions which travel further into the human airways and are generally more harmful. The collection efficiency curve meets the ACGIH/ISO/CEN standards for a respirable curve with a median 50% cut point of 4micron.The cyclones work by physical separation of particles, whilst the conical inhalable head operates by utilising size selective foams which can also give other PM fractions of particulates.

Casella Flow Detective

The Flow Detective™ has been designed to be rugged, with no moving parts so it can be used in the field. Performing calibrations is quick and easy, with a simple user interface and colour screen that can be easily viewed from a distance. The device is highly regarded for its high accuracy calibration, pulsation detection, long battery life, Bluetooth connectivity and wide flow measurement.

Casella Dust Detective Kit

The Dust Detective Kit is a ruggedised enclosure which can hold a Microdust Pro real time dust monitor together with an Apex2 personal air sampling pump. The unit is simple to assemble and allows static air samples to be undertaken on site. The (IP65) enclosure is fully weatherproof and can be secured in location with padlocks (not supplied) for extra security. The air sample is drawn into the enclosure via size selective filters if required, then gravimetric samples can be obtained for weighing for further analysis. The Microdust Pro allows real time dust levels to be recorded and data downloaded at the end of the sampling period.

Ensure that you are prepared for this summer with Casella products. Find more information on air and monitoring here.

To find out the monitoring solution for you, please contact your local Thermo Fisher Scientific at 1300 735 292.

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