Document Type


Peer Reviewed


Publication Date


Journal/Book/Conference Title

Atmospheric Environment

DOI of Published Version


Start Page


End Page



The Iowa City Landfill in eastern Iowa, United States, experienced a fire lasting 18 days in 2012, in which a drainage layer of over 1 million shredded tires burned, generating smoke that impacted the surrounding metropolitan area of 130,000 people. This emergency required air monitoring, risk assessment, dispersion modeling, and public notification. This paper quantifies the impact of the fire on local air quality and proposes a monitoring approach and an air quality index (AQI) for use in future tire fires and other urban fires. Individual fire pollutants are ranked for acute and cancer relative risks using hazard ratios, with the highest acute hazard ratios attributed to SO₂, particulate matter, and aldehydes. Using a dispersion model in conjunction with the new AQI, we estimate that smoke concentrations reached unhealthy outdoor levels for sensitive groups out to distances of 3.1 km and 18 km at 24-h and 1-h average times, respectively. Modeled and measured concentrations of PM2.5 from smoke and other compounds such as VOCs and benzo[a]pyrene are presented at a range of distances and averaging times, and the corresponding cancer risks are discussed. Through reflection on the air quality response to the event, consideration of cancer and acute risks, and comparison to other tire fires, we recommend that all landfills with shredded tire liners plan for hazmat fire emergencies. A companion paper presents emission factors and detailed smoke characterization.


OAfund, Air quality index, Tire fire, Iowa City, Hazard ratio

Journal Article Version

Version of Record

Published Article/Book Citation

Atmospheric Environment, Volume 104:March (2015), Pages 273-283. DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2015.01.002


Copyright © 2015, Ashish Singh, Scott N. Spak, Elizabeth A. Stone, Jared Downard, Robert L. Bullard, Mark Pooley, Pamela A. Kostle, Matthew W. Mainprize, Michael D. Wichman, Thomas M. Peters, Douglas Beardsley, Charles O. Stanier. Posted by permission.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.