UCLA Receives Grant for Evaluating Prototype Respirators for Wildland Firefighter Use

Information taken from Cal-OSHA Reporter, www.cal-osha.com/article/breaking-ground-on-wildland-respirators (Vol: 50, No: 34. 9/15/23)


A new grant has been awarded for research to be conducted on Wildland Respirators designed for firefighters which will be led by Dr. Rachael Jones, Environmental Health Sciences professor and SCERC Center Director. The study will also involve Environmental Health Sciences-Industrial Hygiene professor, Dr. Candace Tsai.


This research is part of other efforts by Cal/OSHA and Fire Departments to create more efficient wildland respirators. Wildland firefighters experience an elevated risk of cancer from prolonged exposure to smoke, and Cal/OSHA along with the Fire community have started to conduct field testing with the hopes of having a technological breakthrough. Developing a respirator fit for wildland firefighting would be incredibly beneficial for the profession and their respiratory health.
The grant is part of the California Climate Action grants from the University of California which includes four other UCLA-led climate projects, with the purpose of pursuing research and solutions that address the threat of climate change throughout California. The other four projects led by UCLA School of Public Health researchers will be on: Health and safety of migrant workers responding to climate-related disasters, Community-driven electric vehicle charging, Battery electrodes for grid-scale energy storage, and Rising sea levels, earthquakes and soil liquefaction.


The almost-$2 million grant will fund the evaluation of several prototype Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) for wildland use “and collect information to support adoption of PAPRs in California for a broad set of wildland/wildland-urban interface firefighting tasks.”


“We will be looking at how filter cartridges for different types perform when challenged with combustion products, with the goal of developing recommendations for filter selection, maximum use concentrations and filter change-out schedules,” says principal investigator Rachael Jones, PhD, CIH. “Since there is also dermal exposures and inhalation exposures when respirators cannot be worn, we want to get an understanding of the effective exposure reduction.”


The study will also examine how existing Cal/OSHA policies might need to be changed and how rulemaking could be designed to make compliance easier.