Personal protective equipment Research/studies Fire/emergency medical services

Is firefighter PPE being cleaned effectively? Study aims to find out

smoke jumper

Photo: MaboHH/iStockphoto

Quincy, MA – A newly funded research project aims to determine if current methods are sufficient for removing toxins from firefighters’ personal protective equipment.

The project will be conducted by the Fire Protection Research Foundation, a research affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association. NFPA recently received a $900,000 grant to study the issue over the next three years. Researchers will work in conjunction with NIOSH and other organizations.

Firefighter PPE provides a necessary safeguard from dangerous and potentially life-threatening levels of heat and smoke. But PPE is exposed to many toxic chemicals, biological pathogens and other hazardous substances, and it must be cleaned properly to prevent short- and long-term health risks.

Experts say more research is needed to determine the most effective way to remove contaminants from PPE. NFPA has established general cleaning procedures, but it hopes to learn more about the effects of various cleaning processes.

“Cancer is a leading concern for firefighter health and is presumably linked to the fire ground exposures and associated PPE contamination,” Fire Protection Research Foundation Executive Director Casey Grant said in a press release. “The ultimate goal of this project is to find out whether existing practices are truly removing those contaminants from PPE so we can better protect firefighters from related risks.”