Several research studies have shown that chemical contaminants accumulate on firefighter personal protective clothing with continuing usage. These contaminants may contribute to firefighters’ high rates of certain cancers and their increased risk of coronary heart disease.
One recent study shows that polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardant chemicals can be present in unused firefighter personal protective gear, and that levels of PBDE contamination are much higher in fire-worn gear. PBDEs are considered possible carcinogens, as well as causing other adverse health effects.
- To reduce exposure to PBDEs and other contaminants on personal protective clothing, firefighters should practice field decontamination following fire events, change and launder turnout gear frequently, wash hands, and take showers.
- Dermal (skin) absorption could be an important contributor to high blood levels of PBDEs in firefighters and other chemical contaminants found in previous studies.
Source: Flame-retardant contamination of firefighter personal protective clothing — A potential health risk for firefighters. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. Vol 13 (September) 2016.
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See also: Safety alert: Take care to clean protective hoods