FIREFIGHTERS HAVE a 2X
GREATER RISK of CANCER
Tips to Help Reduce Your Risk:
• Wipe off & shower immediately after fire
• Have second set of clean gear
• Properly air dry, hang, store &
care for turnout gear
• Prevent “dirty” gear from contacting
• Limit exposure to toxins &
carcinogens in fire station
• Get regularly scheduled physical
• Inspect gear for damage after every fire
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Thus, the ability to clean these items effectively remains
a significant variable as the trend for frequent cleaning is
increased. For example, the portions of the helmet suspension that come in contact with the firefighter and the ear
covers are probably not cleaned after most fires. The ability
to remove these items varies significantly among manufacturers and types of products. For gloves and footwear,
there are significant limitations to the ability to clean these
ensemble elements uniformly. There is also the SCBA to
contend with, which has a combination of soft textile parts
in the harness and straps as well as several harder rubber
and metal surfaces. For PPE contamination to be truly
effective, you must address all parts of the ensemble.
Specific approaches for addressing the cleaning of ensemble items other than garments are described below.
1. Instituting Hand Washing Procedures for Other
PPE. The basic procedures for cleaning other PPE that
cannot be machine washed include having the individual
performing the hand washing do the following:
• Wear examination or cleaning gloves, an apron with
sleeves, and goggles.
• Separate any detachable or separate components such
as ear covers, suspension covers, and goggles for
• Segregate detachable components that are textile
based for separate hand washing or washing in a
washer/extractor with other components such as
garments or hoods.
• Use a utility sink filled with warm water at a temperature no warmer than 105°F and a mild detergent having
a pH of not less than 6.0 or more than 10. 5 at the
detergent manufacturer’s recommended ratio of
detergent to water.
• Lightly scrub the exterior of the item with a soft bristle
brush to reach between components.
• Thoroughly rinse the item following washing.
• Allow the item to be air dried, which can be assisted by
using a towel on any hard surface to aid in drying the
item after cleaning.
2. Applying Specific Procedures for Cleaning
PPE Items. Depending on the type of item and the
manufacturer’s instructions, following are additional
Helmets. Advanced cleaning includes washing the
inside and outside surfaces of the helmet carefully, using
a soft brush to reach between components and into
difficult-to-access spaces, and separately washing the
eye/face protection with a soft cloth. It is usually not
necessary to completely submerge a helmet for cleaning
unless it is being inspected for damage or repairs are being performed in conjunction with the cleaning. Consult
the manufacturer’s instructions to determine if there are
other detachable components such as the impact cap,
suspension, face shield, or other items that are best to
remove from the helmet shell and clean separately. Separate cleaning agents may be needed for helmet eye/face
protection including face shields and goggles.