Volunteer Departments Needed for Study on Diesel Exhaust and Firefighter Health

( NVFC )

The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) has partnered with the University of Arizona to study the diesel particulate matter (DPM) in diesel exhaust and its affect on firefighters’ health.  We are looking for volunteer departments that will serve to pilot test the DPM equipment over a one-week period.  The details of the pilot and study are below.

If you are interested, please contact Lorraine Higgins at lhiggins@nvfc.org with the name and location (city, state) of your department.


The diesel engine provides power to a variety of vehicles vital to society, including those in the fire service. Unfortunately the exhaust produced from these machines is hazardous to breath and exposure may cause negative long-term health effects. DPM is the particulate component of diesel exhaust, which includes diesel soot and aerosols such as ash particulates, metallic abrasion particles, sulfates, and silicates. Exposure to elevated concentrations of diesel exhaust has been linked to negative health effects such as eye and nose irritation, headaches, nausea, and asthma. Long-term exposure to elevated concentrations of diesel exhaust is of major concern due to the fact diesel exhaust has been classified a probable human carcinogen.

Study Basics:

The goal of this proposed study is to determine factors which contribute to DPM exposure for firefighters and propose interventions for decreasing exposure such as changes in protocol, developing new engineering controls, and adding ventilation systems.

For this pilot study, we are requesting that you help the researchers monitor diesel particulate levels in your station living quarters and apparatus bay, as well as outside the building to measure “background” levels, over a one-week period. The preliminary data indicates that diesel exhaust may be penetrating station living quarters and may be higher in these areas than in the apparatus bay, which is often mechanically ventilated. Research personnel at the University of Arizona will analyze the data and provide you information about DPM levels in your station. All the study data and results will be made available to you.

In the next phase of the study, researchers will conduct monitoring at up to 20 volunteer fire stations across the country over the next two years. The pilot data will help refine the study protocol going forward.


All equipment necessary to complete monitoring will be provided at no cost to your department, along with detailed instructions. Station personnel will be asked to set up three DPM monitors in the station living quarters, apparatus bay, and outside on tripods allowing the monitor to obtain measurements at breathing level. The DPM monitors will need to be turned off for 15 minutes in between 24-hour monitoring periods. After the 15 minutes the monitor will be turned back on. At this time the location, date, time, and flowrate will be recorded on the data sheet provided. The data sheet will also provide a space to include the weather conditions and number of calls the station received for the day. After the seven days of monitoring the equipment will need to be shipped back using the prepaid return label provided. During this entire process technical support will be provided to station personnel in case any questions or problems arise. We appreciate any feedback you can provide about the process, from start to finish.