Two types of masks are used by Australian firefighters. One mask (P2) is designed to protect from particulates only, and the other (P2+Organic) from particulates and organic volatiles.
This study, based on the PhD work of Annemarie De Vos at the University of Western Australia, was a finalist in the 2007 Early Career Scientist Awards at the CRCA Annual Conference. The work evaluated the effectiveness of these different masks as compared with using no mask. To do this, a random sample of volunteers was selected from the Perth metropolitan area.
It found that the types of face masks available for those at the fire-front vary greatly in their ability to shield the firefighter from particulate matter and the gases present in bushfire smoke.
The results of this study led directly to the formulation of recommendations on maximising firefighter safety in Western Australian conditions. The research was conducted with the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) of Western Australia.