Hazmat, Health & Safety

How Clean Is Clean? A Fire Service Transformation for Addressing PPE Contamination Control

Issue 1 and Volume 171.

By Jeffrey O. Stull Between fighting fires and responding to other emergencies, firefighters expose their personal protective equipment (PPE) to a wide range of toxic chemicals, biological pathogens, and other hazardous substances. It is well recognized that these contaminant exposures can pose significant dangers to firefighters’ immediate and long-term health, with an increased risk of a cancer diagnosis topping the list of dangers. The contaminants in soiled PPE further cross-contaminate everything with which they come in contact. As a consequence, turnout clothing is being cleaned more frequently; however, we still don’t know if current or new cleaning procedures adequately remove such contaminants from PPE. Although general cleaning procedures have been established in National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, more science is needed to support, clarify, and enhance those procedures. In late 2015, a…

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