First Aid

Breakthrough Research on Turnout Gear Protective Fabric Could Keep Firefighters Safer

According to a study by the University of Alberta, researchers have solved the mystery of why a high-performance fabric commonly used in firefighting and other protective garments weakens prematurely when it’s exposed to moisture.

(source: https://www.ualberta.ca/folio/2022/08/breakthrough-research-on-protective-wear-could-keep-firefighters-and-other-workers-safer.html)

The recent study by the Textile and Apparel Science program at the university investigated the accelerated hydrothermal aging of various fabrics typically used as outer shells in clothing for firefighters, oil and gas workers and electricians.

The fabrics were immersed in water at temperatures ranging from 60 to 95 C for up to 1,200 hours. After exposure, some of them lost significant tensile strength — the stress a fabric can withstand without splitting or breaking — without showing any visible signs of degradation.

The cause was found to be the high sulphur content in some of the fibres, leading to an accelerated loss in fabric strength when exposed to moisture. That degradation weakens the safety of protective garments when exposed to sweat, water, rain, snow or laundering.

Besides fibre damage, the water-repellent finish in some of the fabrics also showed degradation, which adds to safety concerns.

 

In 2019, Lightning X developed the LXFB99 – an air tight/water tight turnout gear bag designed to protect firefighters from prolonged exposure to carcinogens and off-gassing from contaminated turnout gear until the gear can be cleaned and sanitized at the station.

The bag is made with water and air tight TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) fabric and self-healing, water resistant zippers.

 

All seams on the main compartments of the bag are heat welded, so there are no stitches that penetrate the bag to allow air or particulates to escape (think: moisture barrier on turnout gear). Since the fabric is waterproof, the inside and outside can be cleaned and washed out with a hose to remove any remaining contaminants after the dirty turnout gear is removed and washed.

Because the FB99 is air tight and water tight, it’s also an excellent solution to combat this new found moisture issue that was discovered in the recent University of Alberta study.

 

We’ve done a blog post in the past about the extreme damage that UV rays from the sun can cause to turnout gear fabrics. Now with moisture also becoming a huge issue, it’s more important than ever to not only keep your gear protected from the elements, but also keep firefighters protected from the carcinogens that are inherently found in turnout gear.

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