DuPont Nomex FR Apparel Newsletter

The Role of Barrier Hoods in Helping to Reduce Firefighter Exposure to Carcinogens

Recent statistics from the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) show an alarming trend—the number of firefighters dying of cancer has skyrocketed since 1950. The Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FFCSN) notes that there is a cancer epidemic among firefighters and cites numerous examples, such as the fact that 1 out of every 3 active Miami-Dade firefighters has been diagnosed with cancer.

These are just some of the eye-opening facts shared by retired FDNY Battalion Chief Bob Keys during his March 21, 2017, presentation at the Fire Industry Education Resource Organization (FIERO) Fire PPE Symposium.

After opening his presentation with a historical perspective of the dramatic changes and advancements in firefighter personal protective equipment (PPE), Chief Keys provided an in-depth look at the results of many studies and analyses of statistics that all come to a similar conclusion—firefighters face cancer rates that are significantly greater than most Americans. He also noted that facts and figures from parallel studies state that the problem of carcinogen contamination is through the hood material.

Chief Keys talked about a three-prong attack on cancer that is necessary to save firefighters’ lives:
three-prong attack on cancer that is necessary to save firefighters’ lives: three-prong attack on cancer that is necessary to save firefighters’ lives:
This third prong—embracing technology changes—was a focal point of the presentation, with the emphasis on barrier hoods, which are also known as particulate-blocking hoods.

Chief Keys explained that there are many chemicals in today’s fire environment and provided a brief overview of the chemical types known to be contaminating firefighters wearing protective hoods, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These known carcinogens are absorbed through the skin at rates of 20% to 56%, with faster absorption for thinner skin, such as the neck. Skin absorption increases up to 400% with each 5 degree increase in skin temperature.

Barrier Hoods Could Lead to Better Protection

The area of the firefighter PPE ensemble with no barrier that absorbs the most moisture is the exposed hood interface. Couple this information with the skin absorption rates and the fact that the second and third most absorbent skin areas are the angle of the jaw and the forehead, and it becomes quite clear that a barrier hood with high particle barrier efficiency is an important technology change that should be embraced.

Chief Keys highlighted the history of the barrier hood idea, starting in 2013 when the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1971 Hood Task Group was posed with a concept question. He concluded with a discussion of the new requirements developed by the NFPA 1971 Hood Task Group, noting that new standards for the optional barrier hoods—which include testing requirements for total heat loss and particulate blocking—will be published later this year.

Editor’s Note
DuPont has developed game-changing technology to provide particulate barrier protection in firefighter hood constructions. Nomex® Nano Flex provides 95% particle barrier efficiency, as demonstrated in wear trials and Fluorescent Aerosol Screening Test (FAST) evaluations. Learn more about this latest breakthrough in barrier protection for firefighter hoods at the Nomex® Knowledge Center.

Battalion Chief Bob KeysBattalion Chief Bob Keys (ret) recently completed a 31-year career within the Fire Department – City of New York (FDNY). During his tenure with the FDNY, he held a number of firefighting and leadership positions including Chief in Charge of the Research and Development Unit. He currently works at Fire-research and Development of New York Consulting LLC.


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