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A combined modelling and testing program was undertaken to quantify the effectiveness of a common field decontamination procedure used on protective clothing constructed of a fluoropolymer barrier-based material. Variables such as vapor pressure, water solubility, and the ability of the chemical to permeate the composite were used to select a battery of test chemicals. Sample material specimens were exposed to selected chemicals, washed with hot soapy water and allowed to aerate. Offgassing rates were measured during aeration and used in models developed to simulate different possible exposure scenarios which were then compared to industrial hygiene toxicity measures. After aeration, the samples were analyzed using solvent extraction and gas chromatography to identify residual contamination. Subsequent permeation tests were performed for a subset of the chemicals to determine possible changes in material chemical resistance following prior chemical exposure and decontamination. The results of this testing show that chemical offgassing from the material and residual chemical remaining in the material were below levels which could pose harm to suit wearers. The most important criteria in determining the safety associated with decontamination were found to be the chemical toxicity and the nature of the chemical contact.
Chemical protective clothing, fluoropolymer barriers, decontamination, chemical offgasing, residual chemical contamination, matrix contamination, chemical hazard risk analysis
Product Manager, Protective Systems, Chemfab Corporation, Merrimack, NH
President, International Personnel Protection, Inc., Austin, TX
Protective Clothing Division Manager, TRI/Environmental Inc., Austin, TX