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Original research
Urinary mutagenicity and oxidative status of wildland firefighters working at prescribed burns in a Midwestern US forest


Objective Wildland firefighters (WLFFs) experience repeated exposures to wildland fire smoke (WFS). However, studies about WLFFs remain regionally limited. The objective of this study was to assess the effect of WFS exposure on urinary mutagenicity and cell oxidation among WLFFs who work at prescribed burns in the Midwestern USA.

Methods A total of 120 spot urine samples was collected from 19 firefighters right before (pre-shift), immediately after (post-shift), and the morning (next-morning) following work shifts on prescribed burn days (burn days) and regular workdays (non-burn days). The levels of urinary mutagenicity, 8-isoprostane, malondialdehyde and oxidised guanine species (Ox-GS) were measured. Linear mixed-effect models were used to determine the difference of cross-shift changes in the concentrations of urinary biomarkers.

Results Post-shift levels of creatinine-corrected urinary mutagenicity and 8-isoprostane were non-significantly higher than pre-shift levels (1.16× and 1.64×; p=0.09 and 0.07) on burn days. Creatinine-corrected Ox-GS levels increased significantly in next-morning samples following WFS exposure (1.62×, p=0.03). A significant difference in cross-shift changes between burn and non-burn days was observed in 8-isoprostane (2.64×, p=0.03) and Ox-GS (3.00×, p=0.02). WLFFs who contained the fire (performed holding tasks) had a higher pre-morning to next-morning change in urinary mutagenicity compared with those who were lighting fires during the prescribed burns (1.56×, p=0.03).

Conclusions Compared with the other regions, WLFFs who worked in Midwestern forests had an elevated urinary mutagenicity and systemic oxidative changes associated with WFS exposure at prescribed burns.

  • biological monitoring
  • genotoxicity
  • occupational health
  • firefighters

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. De-identified data are available upon request to the corresponding author (

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