A recent safety bulletin issued by the National Fire Protection Association describes how toxins present on the protective hoods used by firefighters may carry significant consequences. According to the announcement, “contaminant exposures can pose significant immediate and long-term dangers to firefighters’ health.” One of these dangers is a high risk of cancer, a conclusion of a study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Personal protective equipment is critical for the safety of firefighters, however, the concern regarding the protective hoods comes from the hood’s direct exposure to the skin of the person wearing it. Compounding the issue is that the face and neck had already been identified as significant exposure areas. Firefighter protective hoods have now been labeled as “the most penetrable piece of equipment.”
In order to help reduce the risk of toxic exposure, firefighters are instructed to follow NFPA 1851 guidelines:
- Make sure to wash protective hood after each fire or emergency service call;
- Always inspect hoods to ensure there is no damage and for continued serviceability after each use; and
- Never wash hoods at home, laundromat, or a dry cleaning facility.