Assessing the Cardiovascular and Chemical Risks Faced by Firefighters

UL FSRI Peer-Reviewed Journal Article Summarizes Impact of Firefighter PPE Design, Laundering, and Removal on Exposure Risks

February 2, 2021

firefighters wearing protective gear and white hoods

The firefighting personal protective equipment (PPE) ensemble is designed to protect firefighters from an array of hazards. Protecting the neck and head regions is particularly challenging as thin dermal layers and vasculature may be subject to elevated thermal conditions. The relatively thin skin in the neck region provides an area where transdermal absorption of products of combustion may be important. However, maintaining the ability to dissipate internally generated heat through the head and necessary range of motion of head is critical for firefighter safety. Thus, the balance between protection (from fireground particulate and elevated environmental temperatures) and wearability (e.g. thermal perceptions, comfort, breathability, impact on range of motion) must be understood.

Effects of firefighting hood design, laundering and doffing on smoke protection, heat stress, and wearability summarizes the results from a study to determine how the impact of 1) hood design (traditional knit hood vs particulate-blocking hood), 2) repeated laundering (new hood vs exposed to smoke and laundered 40 times), and 3) hood removal method (traditional doffing vs overhead doffing) on a) protection from contamination depositing on the neck, b) physiological responses related to heat stress and c) firefighters’ self-reported perceptions of wearability.

Important take away messages from this paper:

  • The addition of a particulate-blocking layer to firefighters’ traditional two-ply hood was found to reduce the PAH contamination reaching the neck but did not affect heat stress measurements or thermal perceptions.
  • Modifying the process for hood removal resulted in a larger reduction in neck skin contamination than the PPE design modification.

Click here to learn more about this project.