Hazardous Air Pollutants in Fresh and Aged Western US Wildfire Smoke and Implications for Long-Term Exposure

Katelyn O'Dell, Rebecca S. Hornbrook, Wade Permar, Ezra J.T. Levin, Lauren A. Garofalo, Eric C. Apel, Nicola J. Blake, Alex Jarnot, Matson A. Pothier, Delphine K. Farmer, Lu Hu, Teresa Campos, Bonne Ford, Jeffrey R. Pierce, Emily V. Fischer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Wildfires have a significant adverse impact on air quality in the United States (US). To understand the potential health impacts of wildfire smoke, many epidemiology studies rely on concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM) as a smoke tracer. However, there are many gas-phase hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that are also present in wildfire smoke plumes. Using observations from the Western Wildfire Experiment for Cloud Chemistry, Aerosol Absorption, and Nitrogen (WE-CAN), a 2018 aircraft-based field campaign that measured HAPs and PM in western US wildfire smoke plumes, we identify the relationships between HAPs and associated health risks, PM, and smoke age. We find the ratios between acute, chronic noncancer, and chronic cancer HAPs health risk and PM in smoke decrease as a function of smoke age by up to 72% from fresh (<1 day of aging) to old (>3 days of aging) smoke. We show that acrolein, formaldehyde, benzene, and hydrogen cyanide are the dominant contributors to gas-phase HAPs risk in smoke plumes. Finally, we use ratios of HAPs to PM along with annual average smoke-specific PM to estimate current and potential future smoke HAPs risks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11838-11847
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume54
Issue number19
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 6 2020

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