Biomass combustion is used in heating and electric power generation in many areas of the world. Airborne particulate matter (PM) is released when biomass is brought to a facility, stored, and combusted. Occupational exposure to airborne PM within biomass‐fueled facilities may lead to health problems. In March and August of 2006, airborne PM was collected from a biomass‐fueled facility located in Denmark. In addition, source‐specific PM was generated from straw and wood pellets using a rotating drum. The PM was analyzed for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), metals, microbial components, mutagenic activity, and ability to generate highly reactive oxygen species (hROS) in cell‐free aqueous suspensions. PM collected from the boiler room and the biomass storage hall had higher levels of mutagenic activity, PAHs and metals, and a higher hROS generating potential than the source specific PM. The mutagenic activity was generally more potent without S9 activation, and on the metabolically enhanced strain YG1041, relative to TA98. Significant correlations were found between mutagenicity on YG1041 (without S9) and PAH concentration and mutagenicity on YG1041 (with S9) and hROS generating ability. PM collected in March was more toxic than PM collected in August. Overall, airborne PM collected from the facility, especially that from the boiler room, were more toxic than PM generated from straw and wood chips. The results suggest that exposure to combustion PM in a biomass‐fueled facility, which likely includes PM from biomass combustion as well as internal combustion vehicles, may contribute to an elevated risk of adverse health effects. Environ. Mol. Mutagen., 2011. © 2010 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.
- Wood chips
- Ames assay