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New Turnout Ensemble Aims to Reduce Firefighter Cancer Risk

Firefighters are continuously exposed to particulates and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that may heighten the likelihood of cancer. This is why they wear a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) during fire suppression and overhaul—to protect the respiratory tract, which is vulnerable to toxic combustion products that are commonly found in smoke and soot.

To mitigate these risks, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s First Responders Group, North Carolina State University’s (N.C. State) Textile Protection and Comfort Center and LION First Responder PPE, Inc. are designing a new Smoke and Particulate Resistant Structural Turnout Ensemble prototype that takes protection from smoke and soot infiltration to the next level.

In 2010, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer named the occupation of firefighting as possibly carcinogenic to humans. The results of several studies indicated at the time that firefighters experience a 50 percent increased risk of testicular cancer, a 30 percent elevated risk of prostate cancer, and a 21 percent elevated risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma compared to other professions.

Firefighters use a protective hood that interfaces with several ensemble parts, including the SCBA face piece, helmet, hoods and the turnout gear’s coat collar. Even when all of these ensemble items are functioning correctly, portions of the head, neck, torso, legs and face still accumulate soot and particles.

The effort to design this new ensemble prototype is taking two different approaches. The first focuses on using a retrofit compatible design that would provide the current standard turnout gear moisture barrier with improved interfaces. This would provide the required level of protection without causing a significant change in donning/doffing or thermal comfort for the firefighter. The second approach is to use a bib overall-type design that provides additional torso protection, but may impact the wearer’s thermal comfort.

Read full article here: https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/news/2016/10/03/responder-new...