Evaluation of wildland fire fighters' exposures to asbestos during a prescribed burn
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Evaluation of wildland fire fighters' exposures to asbestos during a prescribed burn

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    "The Health Hazard Evaluation Program received a management request from a federal forest management agency concerned about wildland fire fighters' exposures to asbestos during prescribed burns near a former vermiculite mine. The geological deposit where the vermiculite was mined contains amphibole asbestos. The prescribed burn conducted in this evaluation was just outside of an area centered around the mine that is designated as an EPA National Priorities List Superfund site. During our evaluation, we reviewed the respiratory protection program, observed work processes and practices, and collected air samples for asbestos and total fibers. All exposures to total fibers in air were below the lowest occupational exposure limit. Fibers, including asbestos fibers, were detected during multiple tasks performed throughout the prescribed burn. The majority of fibers were found during tasks associated with greater plant and soil disturbance, such as fire line construction and dry mop-up. Some confusion and inconsistencies existed around the decontamination line procedures because this was one of the first times these procedures were used during a live event. Some employees were not aware of the overall purpose and intended effectiveness of the decontamination process. We observed that some fire fighters had facial hair and the fit testing equipment used was not calibrated according to the manufacturer's specifications. We recommended using wet mop-up methods instead of dry mop-up methods; reworking decontamination line procedures and setup; talking with employees about the effectiveness of decontamination; and improving the respiratory protection program by calibrating the fit testing equipment, fit testing employees at the beginning of the fire season, training employees annually, and ensuring employees wearing respirators requiring a face seal are clean shaven." - NIOSHTIC-2

    NIOSH no. 20056304

    Recommended citation: NIOSH [2019]. Evaluation of wildland fire fighters’ exposures to asbestos during a prescribed burn. By Grant, MP. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Health Hazard Evaluation Report 2017-0076-3352, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2017- 0076-3352.pdf.

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