Impact of select PPE design elements and repeated laundering in firefighter protection from smoke exposure
October 13, 2020 05:48am
Responding to the U.S. fire service’s growing awareness of the potential health effects from occupational exposure to hazardous contaminants on the fireground, personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers and fire departments have developed improved means of firefighter protection, including more frequent laundering of PPE after exposures. While new PPE designs and the effect of laundering on those fabrics has been evaluated through laboratory testing, there are still concerns around the lack of full garment protection. This journal article summarizes the results from a pilot study to determine how repeated exposures and cleanings (laundering and on-scene decontamination) impacted the ingress of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and benzene contamination for different hood designs (traditional knit vs. particulate blocking) and turnout jacket closure systems (zipper vs. hook & dee) on stationary mannequins dressed in NFPA 1971 Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting compliant PPE. This manuscript is derived from the UL FSRI/IFSI/NIOSH PPE Cleaning study, a component of the larger Cardiovascular & Chemical Exposure Risks in Today’s Fire Service project. It also provides data from PPE design elements tested in the Firefighter Exposure Simulator (FES) props. For more information on the FES, read the “Development of Fireground Exposure Simulator (FES) Prop for PPE Testing and Evaluation” article. UL FSRI partnered with NIOSH, Globe fire suits (now MSA), and IFSI to conduct this research. Funding for this project was provided by the Department of Homeland Security Fire Prevention and Safety Grant #EMW-2015-FP-00646.