eCite Digital Repository

Is remaining indoors an effective way of reducing exposure to fine particulate matter during biomass burning events?


Reisen, F and Powell, JC and Dennekamp, M and Johnston, FH and Wheeler, AJ, Is remaining indoors an effective way of reducing exposure to fine particulate matter during biomass burning events?, Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association, 69, (5) pp. 611-622. ISSN 1096-2247 (2019) [Refereed Article]

PDF (final author version)

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2019 A&WMA. This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association on 27/02/2019, available online:

DOI: doi:10.1080/10962247.2019.1567623


Bushfires, prescribed burns, and residential wood burning are significant sources of fine particles (aerodynamic diameter <2.5 μm; PM2.5) affecting the health and well-being of many communities. Despite the lack of evidence, a common public health recommendation is to remain indoors, assuming that the home provides a protective barrier against ambient PM2.5. The study aimed to assess to what extent houses provide protection against peak concentrations of outdoor PM2.5 and whether remaining indoors is an effective way of reducing exposure to PM2.5. The effectiveness of this strategy was evaluated by conducting simultaneous week-long indoor and outdoor measurements of PM2.5 at 21 residences in regional areas of Victoria, Australia. During smoke plume events, remaining indoors protected residents from peak outdoor PM2.5 concentrations, but the level of protection was highly variable, ranging from 12% to 76%. Housing stock (e.g., age of the house) and ventilation (e.g., having windows/doors open or closed) played a significant role in the infiltration of outdoor PM2.5 indoors. The results also showed that leaving windows and doors closed once the smoke plume abates trapped PM2.5 indoors and increased indoor exposure to PM2.5. Furthermore, for approximately 50% of households, indoor sources such as cooking activities, smoking, and burning candles or incense contributed significantly to indoor PM2.5.

Implications: Smoke from biomass burning sources can significantly impact on communities. Remaining indoors with windows and doors closed is a common recommendation by health authorities to minimize exposures to peak concentrations of fine particles during smoke plume events. Findings from this study have shown that the protection from fine particles in biomass burning smoke is highly variable among houses, with information on housing age and ventilation status providing an approximate assessment on the protection of a house. Leaving windows closed once a smoke plume abates traps particles indoors and increases exposures.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Pollution and contamination
Research Field:Pollution and contamination not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Johnston, FH (Associate Professor Fay Johnston)
UTAS Author:Wheeler, AJ (Dr Amanda Wheeler)
ID Code:132294
Year Published:2019
Web of Science® Times Cited:10
Deposited By:Menzies Institute for Medical Research
Deposited On:2019-05-02
Last Modified:2020-03-11
Downloads:3 View Download Statistics

Repository Staff Only: item control page