Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Committee Chair

Christopher Palmer

Commitee Members

Tony J. Ward, Curtis W. Noonan, Garon Smith, Kent Sugden


biomarker, levoglucosan, particulate matter, woodsmoke


University of Montana


Particulate matter is released during combustion reactions and can be harmful to human health. One common source for human particulate matter exposure is through biomass burning, primarily from wildfires or stoves used for heating or cooking in the home. A method was developed for the analysis of seven selected chemical tracers of woodsmoke (levoglucosan, dehydroabietic acid, abietic acid, vanillin, acetovanillone, guaiacol, and 4-ethylguaiacol) in particulate matter. This method was used to analyze particulate matter collected in Libby, MT, a community where woodsmoke is the predominant component of the particulate matter, before, during, and after a woodstove changeout program. Ambient levels of PM2.5 and levoglucosan were found to decrease after the stove replacement, while the two resin acids remained the same or increased. The methoxyphenols measured showed no trend during the changeout, but were found to correlate to temperature on the day of sample collection. Samples collected inside individual homes in Libby before and after installation of a new woodstove showed similar results to the ambient samples. Initial attempts to replicate the real-world results in a laboratory setting were unsuccessful. Levoglucosan, dehydroabietic acid, and abietic acid were determined to be suitable tracers for woodsmoke in particulate matter, while vanillin, acetovanillone, guaiacol, and 4-ethylguaiacol were not.

Levoglucosan was investigated as a potential urinary biomarker for woodsmoke exposure. Preliminary studies using a mouse model were successful in demonstrating that levoglucosan can be detected in urine after exposure to both the pure compound and woodsmoke particulates. The method developed was shown to be specific for levoglucosan over other sugars and types of particulate matter. Inhalation of woodsmoke by mice resulted in an increase in urinary levoglucosan levels, however, similar results were not observed in human studies. Exposure to smoke from either a campfire or a woodstove did not result in a consistent increase in urinary levoglucosan in humans. Levoglucosan was found to be widely present in the human diet, resulting in fluctuating background levels that are higher than the effects of woodsmoke exposure on urinary levels.



© Copyright 2010 Megan Ann Bergauff