Fine particulate matter infiltration at Western Montana residences during wildfire season

Ethan S. Walker, Taylor Stewart, Dave Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/aims: Wildfire air pollution is a growing public health concern as wildfires increase in size, intensity, and duration in the United States. The public is often encouraged to stay indoors during wildfire smoke events to reduce exposure. However, there is limited information on how much wildfire smoke infiltrates indoors at residences and what household/behavioral characteristics contribute to higher infiltration. We assessed fine particulate matter (PM2.5) infiltration into Western Montana residences during wildfire season. Methods: We measured continuous outdoor and indoor PM2.5 concentrations from July–October 2022 at 20 residences in Western Montana during wildfire season using low-cost PM2.5 sensors. We used paired outdoor/indoor PM2.5 data from each household to calculate infiltration efficiency (Finf; range 0–1; higher values indicate more outdoor PM2.5 infiltration to the indoor environment) using previously validated methods. Analyses were conducted for all households combined and for various household subgroups. Results: Median (25th percentile, 75th percentile) daily outdoor PM2.5 at the households was 3.7 μg/m3 (2.1, 7.1) during the entire study period and 29.0 μg/m3 (19.0, 49.4) during a 2-week period in September impacted by wildfire smoke. Median daily indoor PM2.5 at the households was 2.5 μg/m3 (1.3, 5.5) overall and 10.4 μg/m3 (5.6, 21.0) during the wildfire period. Overall Finf was 0.34 (95 % Confidence Interval [95%CI]: 0.33, 0.35) with lower values during the wildfire period (0.32; 95%CI: 0.28, 0.36) versus non-wildfire period (0.39; 95%CI: 0.37, 0.42). Indoor PM2.5 concentrations and Finf varied substantially across household subgroups such as household income, age of the home, presence of air conditioning units, and use of portable air cleaners. Conclusions: Indoor PM2.5 was substantially higher during wildfire-impacted periods versus the rest of the study. Indoor PM2.5 and Finf were highly variable across households. Our results highlight potentially modifiable behaviors and characteristics that can be used in targeted intervention strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number165238
Pages (from-to)165238
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online dateJun 29 2023
StatePublished - Oct 20 2023


  • Indoor air quality
  • Infiltration efficiency
  • PM
  • Smoke
  • Wildfires


Dive into the research topics of 'Fine particulate matter infiltration at Western Montana residences during wildfire season'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this