Live-fire exposures place firefighters at risk for cardiovascular events and cancer. Largely as a result of our previous projects, the US fire service has become acutely aware of the limitations of some components of their PPE and the need to clean PPE after fires. However, there exist no guidance on how often PPE should be laundered vs deconned and how effective PPE cleaning remains after multiple washes. Damage from laundering may also impact safety features that provide critical protection from fireground risks (heat, contaminants). Finally, we have identified the hood as a vulnerable location where contaminants may penetrate PPE. Industry has introduced new technology to address this issue with little scientific study of effectiveness or durability to exposure/laundering. In a single study, we will advance our understanding of PPE protection and the effects of cleaning measures after realistic fire scenarios, then broadly disseminate this critical information to the fire service.
The goals and objectives of this project are to collect new data on the impact of both repeated washing and gross on-scene decontamination on removing fireground contaminants and impacting critical protective properties of the PPE. Additionally, new information will be produced on the impact of hood design on exposures to heat and chemicals. This information will be collected using the same integrated manner our team used in seminal studies to characterize the fireground and training ground risks in the most complete manner to date. Most importantly, this information will be made available to all aspects of the fire service and affiliated industries, with translation of scientific findings into easily understood conclusions using widely accessible multimedia tools. As a result of this project, fire and public officials will have access to information that will allow them to implement effective policies for minimizing exposure risks and balancing cardiovascular/thermal strain.