It is well understood that fire fighters are exposed to contaminants. Those contaminants soil fire fighter PPE (personal protective equipment) and other fire service gear. Cross-contaminated equipment and gear are suspected of adversely influencing long-term fire fighter health and wellness.
As a consequence, PPE and other gear are being cleaned more frequently. However, it’s not known if current or new cleaning procedures adequately remove contaminants. Two major research efforts are now addressing the question of “how clean is clean?” These are:
- PPE Cleaning Validation
- Fire Service Gear Cleaning Validation.
Project 1 - PPE Cleaning Validation
This project addresses the validation of cleaning methods for fire fighter PPE cleaned by extractors such as coats and pants. The primary work for this multi-year effort is now completed and the final documentation is forthcoming. Funding for this effort has been generously provided through a DHS/FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG).
General cleaning exists for the stakeholder community in NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting. But more science is needed to support, clarify and enhance those procedures. An NFPA 1851 cleaning task group has been attempting to address this topic on behalf of the responsible NFPA technical Committee, and this task group is closely following the work of this research project.
Project 1 - video 1: "How clean is clean?"
How did this fire PPE cleaning project even come to be? This 7-minute video explains how the NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, cleaning task group work turned in to this AFG/NFPA/FPRF/NIOSH cleaning project.
Beginning in late 2015, a four-phase approach was initiated to use scientific methodology to identify and establish procedures for ensuring optimum contaminant removal from fire fighter PPE, focusing on coats and pants that are cleaned via extractors.
Project 1 - video 2: "Fire PPE cleaning validation kit"
As part of Project 1, the team created an instructional video that illustrates how an organization seeking verification would use a PPE Cleaning Validation Kit.
The video, available on YouTube, provides a step-by-step review of how to process the PPE Cleaning Validation Kit for use by fire PPE manufacturers and Independent Service Providers (ISPs) wanting to be verified in Advanced Cleaning and Sanitization as described in the 2020 edition of NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting (which is not yet published).
The narrative posted with the video on YouTube contains important clarifications related to the contents of the video and a table of contents with links to each segment of the video.
Related documents you may find useful with this video are:
- Sample PPE cleaning validation tracking form (PDF)
- PPE cleaning validation kit contents (PDF)
Project 1 - reports
The primary work for this project is complete, and the documentation (coming soon) is planned as nine reports in a series, as follows:
- Master report
- Supplement A - Annotated bibliography
- Supplement B - Preliminary Work for Assessing PPE Cleaning Procedures
- Supplement C - Investigation of Simulated Fire Ground Exposures (PDF)
- Supplement D - Evaluation of Outer Shell Liquid Retention Properties
- Supplement E - Report of Semi-Volatile Organic Chemical Contamination, Extraction, and Analysis Procedures
- Supplement F - Report of Heavy Metals Contamination, Extraction, and Analysis Procedures
- Supplement G - Report of Biological Contamination, Extraction, and Analysis Procedures
- Supplement H - Evaluation of Microbial Cleanliness of Selected ISP Advanced Cleaning Procedures
Project 1 - Additional references
Further related information for this effort on (1) PPE Cleaning Validation is described below.
Project 2 - Fire Service Gear Cleaning Validation
This project addresses the validation of cleaning methods for fire fighter gear other that coats and pants typically cleaned by extractors, such as helmets, boots, SCBA, hand tools, etc. To the extent possible, other avenues of contamination transmission will also be addressed such as electronic equipment, hose, apparatus seat covers, etc.
This research project intends to extrapolate upon the previous project (addressing PPE Cleaning Validation) and extend the same approach to address the other key components used by fire fighters that need to be regularly cleaned. The primary work for this multi-year effort is now commencing. Funding for this effort has been generously provided through a DHS/FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG).
Survey consent form: One of the task in this effort is a survey to help set priorities in the subject project, particularly about which items to evaluate, what cleaning processes should be evaluated, and discover any other contamination issues for which we may not be aware. The purpose of the consent form is to provide you (as a prospective research study participant) information that may affect your decision as to whether or not to participate in this research and to record the consent of those who agree to be involved in the study. More information is available in our statement of the form (PDF).
- If you are a firefighter, please go to the survey. We appreciate your time and participation.
Follow this issue
Is this issue important to you? Do you want to help address fire fighter safety and health? If you want to be on our mailing list (used only for this project), please provide your e-mail address. We will notify you when interim and final reports/updates are available.
If you want additional information pertaining to the NFPA 1851 cleaning task group (handled separately from this research project), you can email the task group chair Tim Tomlinson.