April 11, 2024

NIOSH Requests Information on Assessment and Control of Wildland Fire Smoke

NIOSH has invited the public to provide information on the assessment and control of hazards related to wildland fire smoke among outdoor workers. According to a notice published in the Federal Register, the agency will use this information to develop a hazard review document summarizing the scientific literature on health effects associated with wildland fire smoke exposures and recommending protections for outdoor workers, including farm workers, construction workers, oil and gas workers, park rangers, emergency responders, and others.

The notice states that wildland fire smoke is known or suspected to cause health effects such as eye irritation, sore throat, wheezing, coughing, bronchitis and pneumonia, adverse birth outcomes, and cardiovascular outcomes, as well as to exacerbate asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. However, NIOSH notes that published information on the health impacts of wildland fire smoke on outdoor workers is limited and its hazards are not fully understood. This is primarily because the potentially toxic mixture of gases and particles that compose wildland fire smoke varies depending on factors such as weather, fire behavior, and type of materials or vegetation burned. “Because of this, workers may be exposed to varying types and amounts of compounds in wildland fire smoke,” NIOSH states. “Exposure also varies by the type of job task being performed.”

NIOSH requests information on properties and characteristics of wildland fire smoke mixtures, potential exposures to outdoor workers, health effects of exposures, outdoor worker populations at risk, exposure monitoring, risk management and control, and research needs. All comments must be received by May 13, 2024.

To learn more, view NIOSH’s request for information in the Federal Register.

Related: Synergist articles published in January 2023 and April 2024 discuss hazards, health effects, and protective controls for wildland firefighters, an important subset of workers exposed to wildland fire smoke.