Characterising the ground level concentrations of harmful organic and inorganic substances released during major industrial fires, and implications for human health

Griffiths, Simon, Entwistle, Jane, Kelly, Frank J. and Deary, Michael (2022) Characterising the ground level concentrations of harmful organic and inorganic substances released during major industrial fires, and implications for human health. Environment International, 162. p. 107152. ISSN 0160-4120

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We report on the concentration ranges and combustion source-related emission profiles of organic and inorganic species released during 34 major industrial fires in the UK. These episodic events tend to be acute in nature and demand a rapid public health risk assessment to indicate the likely impact on exposed populations. The objective of this paper is to improve our understanding of the nature, composition and potential health impacts of emis- sions from major incident fires, thus supporting the risk assessment process. The monitoring data was obtained from portable Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) monitoring (Gasmet DX-4030) carried out as part of the UK’s Air Quality in Major Incidents service. The measured substances include carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, ni- trogen dioxide, ammonia, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen bromide, hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, 1,3-butadiene, benzene, toluene, xylenes, ethyl benzene, acrolein, phosgene, arsine, phosphine and methyl isocyanate. We evaluate the reported concentrations against Acute Exposure Guideline Values (AEGLs) and Emergency Response Planning Guidelines (ERPGs), as well as against UK, EU and WHO short-term ambient guideline values. Most exceedances of AEGL or ERPG guideline values were at levels likely only to cause discomfort to exposed populations (hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride and formaldehyde), though for several substances the exceedances could have potentially given rise to more serious health effects (acrolein, phosphine, phosgene and methyl isocyanate). In the latter cases, the high observed concentrations are likely to be due to cross-interference from other substances that absorb in the mid-range of the infrared spec- trum, particularly when the ground level plume is very concentrated.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: This study is part funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit in Environmental Exposures and Health, a partnership between the UK Health Security Agency and Imperial College London.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Air quality in major incidents, Industrial fires, VOCs, Particulate matter, Gasmet FTIR, AEGL, ERPG
Subjects: F800 Physical and Terrestrial Geographical and Environmental Sciences
F900 Others in Physical Sciences
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2022 14:06
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2022 16:00

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