Elevated Exposures to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Other Organic Mutagens in Ottawa Firefighters Participating in Emergency, On-Shift Fire Suppression

Environ Sci Technol. 2017 Nov 7;51(21):12745-12755. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.7b02850. Epub 2017 Oct 18.


Occupational exposures to combustion emissions were examined in Ottawa Fire Service (OFS) firefighters. Paired urine and dermal wipe samples (i.e., pre- and post-event) as well as personal air samples and fire event questionnaires were collected from 27 male OFS firefighters. A total of 18 OFS office workers were used as additional controls. Exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other organic mutagens were assessed by quantification of urinary PAH metabolite levels, levels of PAHs in dermal wipes and personal air samples, and urinary mutagenicity using the Salmonella mutagenicity assay (Ames test). Urinary Clara Cell 16 (CC16) and 15-isoprostane F2t (8-iso-PGF) levels were used to assess lung injury and overall oxidative stress, respectively. The results showed significant 2.9- to 5.3-fold increases in average post-event levels of urinary PAH metabolites, depending on the PAH metabolite (p < 0.0001). Average post-event levels of urinary mutagenicity showed a significant, event-related 4.3-fold increase (p < 0.0001). Urinary CC16 and 8-iso-PGF did not increase. PAH concentrations in personal air and on skin accounted for 54% of the variation in fold changes of urinary PAH metabolites (p < 0.002). The results indicate that emergency, on-shift fire suppression is associated with significantly elevated exposures to combustion emissions.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Firefighters*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mutagens*
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons*


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Mutagens
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons