VA Department, Fire Group Team Up for Gear Study

The study by Fairfax County Fire and Rescue and the National Fire Protection Association Research Foundation is trying to limit carcinogen exposure in firefighter gear.

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Fairfax, VA, Fire and Rescue and the National Fire Protection Association Research Foundation have teamed up to conduct a four-part study to improve firefighters' gear when it comes to exposure to carcinogens.
Fairfax, VA, Fire and Rescue and the National Fire Protection Association Research Foundation have teamed up to conduct a four-part study to improve firefighters' gear when it comes to exposure to carcinogens.
Fairfax, VA, Fire and Rescue

A Virginia fire department has teamed up with a fire service group to conduct a study that hopes to find ways to reduce exposure to carcinogens when it comes to firefighters' personal protective equipment.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue and the National Fire Protection Association Research Foundation are working together on a four-phase study concerning PPE, according to a statement by the department. They recently conducted the first phase, which tested exposure reduction in self-contained breathing apparatus.


The first phase included the following: 

  • a non-toxic, fluorescent aerosol (GloGerm Aerosol) was sprayed on firefighters wearing full gear with SCBA to simulate fire ground exposures to heavy particulate smoke.
  • firefighters went through preliminary exposure (on-scene gross decontamination) involving an initial rinse with a hand line, light scrubbing with a soapy water (using a dish washing soap-based solution), and a final rinse.
  • a bank of fluorescent lights was used to view and photograph the outfitted fire fighters before and after preliminary exposure to determine the any areas with fluorescence is present indicating the specific areas of the SCBA are likely remain contaminated following preliminary exposure reduction.

Data from the initial phase will help with planning the three future phases, the department said. The study also plans to do future live burns with exposure of SCBA, assessment of effectiveness for different preliminary exposure reduction and advanced cleaning techniques.

The Fairfax department already "has taken a holistic approach to cancer reduction" among its firefighters. According to the department, Fairfax also is apparently the first department in the United States to use a decon washing machine to reduce cancer exposure on helmets.

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