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This study addresses two key issues: (1) a decontamination methodology to remove polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminants from fire fighter protective clothing and (2) application techniques for various types of protective clothing, so as to minimize damage to the garments subjected to the decontamination process. The occupational exposure situations evaluated include fire fighting, organic chemical manufacturing, and fueling of liquid fuel rockets. Removal efficiencies of up to 99+% for PCBs have been achieved using a Freon solvent technique.
With respect to physical damage to the garment, a tumble wash action proved satisfactory for rugged garments (that is, fire fighter turnout gear).
A surface spray-flush action in an enclosed chamber was required for butyl-covered fabric-type construction. The latter type of garment had internal construction and hardware items that tended to cause wear points and fabric gouging when subjected to tumbling action. Some protective clothing fabrics proved unsuitable for the Freon solvent because of plasticizer removal.
These decontamination techniques were originally developed to remove radioactive contaminants from protective clothing worn in the nuclear utility and radioactive materials industries. The Freon-based decontamination system is a closed system that flows solvent across the fabric surfaces; the solvent is “cleaned” using filtration, adsorption, and partial distillation. Removal of solvent and vapors from the garments and cleaning chamber is achieved by mechanical refrigeration.
decontamination, protective clothing, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), Freon TF solvent, fire fighters, fabric sampling
Program manager, Quadrex HPS, Inc., Gainesville, FL