Sub-clinical effects of outdoor smoke in affected communities

Thomas O’dwyer, Michael J. Abramson, Lahn Straney, Farhad Salimi, Fay Johnston, Amanda J. Wheeler, David O’keeffe, Anjali Haikerwal, Fabienne Reisen, Ingrid Hopper, Martine Dennekamp

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Many Australians are intermittently exposed to landscape fire smoke from wildfires or planned (prescribed) burns. This study aimed to investigate effects of outdoor smoke from planned burns, wildfires and a coal mine fire by assessing biomarkers of inflammation in an exposed and predominantly older population. Participants were recruited from three communities in south-eastern Australia. Concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) were continuously measured within these communities, with participants performing a range of health measures during and without a smoke event. Changes in biomarkers were examined in response to PM2.5 concentrations from outdoor smoke. Increased levels of FeNO (fractional exhaled nitric oxide) (β = 0.500 [95%CI 0.192 to 0.808] p < 0.001) at a 4 h lag were associated with a 10 µg/m3 increase in PM2.5 levels from outdoor smoke, with effects also shown for wildfire smoke at 4, 12, 24 and 48-h lag periods and coal mine fire smoke at a 4 h lag. Total white cell (β = −0.088 [−0.171 to −0.006] p = 0.036) and neutrophil counts (β = −0.077 [−0.144 to −0.010] p = 0.024) declined in response to a 10 µg/m3 increase in PM2.5. However, exposure to outdoor smoke resulting from wildfires, planned burns and a coal mine fire was not found to affect other blood biomarkers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1131
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2021


  • Biomarkers
  • Bushfire
  • FeNO
  • Landscape fire
  • Neutrophils
  • PM
  • Smoke
  • White cell count

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