Exposure to Residual Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) in Firefighter Vehicles

Abstract No:


Abstract Type:

Professional Poster 


J Hwang1


1Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY


Jooyeon Hwang  
Western Kentucky University


The purpose of this study is to assess the PAH exposures in rural firefighters' vehicles: fire trucks (FT) and personal vehicles (PV). We postulated that residual exposures to PAH may be present in firefighters' vehicles.

Situation / Problem:

Firefighters are exposed to many carcinogens, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Most firefighter exposure studies have focused on fire departments in big cities. However, rural firefighters have different practices. Previous studies have found that firefighters in small rural fire departments tend to store their turnout gear in vehicles because response areas are spread out and the number of firefighters is limited. Scientific literature has little information regarding residual exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in vehicles, which present a potential for inhalation exposure.


A total of twenty-nine wipe samples were collected from various surfaces in each vehicle. A polyester fabric wipe (100 cm²) saturated with 70% Isopropyl alcohol was applied for each sample. A survey about work practices such as turnout gear storage location, years of experience as a firefighter, and frequency of washing the inside of vehicles was also administered. Fifteen different PAH were quantified using EPA method 8270D. SAS version 9.4 was used for data analyses.

Results / Conclusions:

With the exception of Naphthalene, the t-test analysis of log-transformed concentration indicated a statistically significant difference between FT and PV. The Naphthalene concentration in PV was higher than in FT; however, the concentration of remaining PAH in FT was higher than in PV. A mixed effects model showed that the PAH concentrations in the vehicles were significantly influenced by other factors, such as firefighter type, vehicle storage location, and work experiences. These analyses demonstrated the importance of work practices when storing turnout gear in vehicles. The knowledge gained provides firefighters in small rural fire departments with information critical for implementing needed guidelines on turnout gear storage practices. Future longitudinal exposure studies should consider more sample sizes with fully captured locations, including locker rooms in the fire department and firefighter vehicles that are not used to store turnout gear.

Primary Topic:

Indoor Environmental Quality/Indoor Air Quality

Secondary Topics:

Personal Protective Clothing & Equipment
Risk Assessment and Management

Acknowledgements and References

List any additional people who worked on the project or provided guidance and support along with details on the role they played in the research. (Please include first name, last name, organization, city, state and country).

1. Ritchie Taylor, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY USA
2. Mac Charles Cann, Western Kentucky University, Owensboro, KY USA
3. Vijay Golla, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY USA

Learning Levels

What learning level(s) is the presentation content geared towards?

Novice - new to the job, role, or task, with no or limited knowledge of the content.