Mitigate Turnout Gear from UV Over Exposure

By: DuPont, vendor partner of LION

Firefighter turnout gear is designed to provide firefighters with protection from thermal, physical and liquid borne biological hazards while minimizing heat stress. The minimum performance requirements are outlined in NFPA 1971, Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural and Proximity Firefighting. In addition, NFPA 1851 outlines the selection, care and maintenance of the ensemble and recommends that all elements should be retired after 10 years from the date of manufacture. Any extraordinary wear and tear, prolonged exposure to weathering and heat, or mechanically repetitive impact can compromise gear physical properties and potentially reduce protective performance.

Sunlight is considered to be the most important element in weathering. Energy that is emitted by the Sun at the UV and near-UV region is much higher than visible or infrared light. UV light interacts with virtually all organic polymers to cause irreversible photo-oxidative damage and chemical structure breakdown, resulting in visual color change, loss of strength, and reduction in durability. Because the most common elements of turnout gear include fibers, dyes, films and coatings that are made of organic polymers, they are all subject to UV degradation depending on the nature of their polymer, fabric weight and thickness, color, and exposure strength and duration. According to a study conducted by Lion, it is found that fabric that is more enriched with Kevlar® fiber maintained their strength better than fabrics with very little Kevlar®. To ensure the protective gear maintains its performance for its lifespan manufacturers often intentionally design and make fabrics that have strength at least 2X to 3X higher than the minimum requirements stated in NFPA 1971 standard to compensate for normal light exposure and common wear and tear.

To prevent gear from being over-exposed to UV light, gear must be stored away from direct and indirect sunlight and fluorescent light when not in use. Gear should also be cleaned properly after a fire or when they are visibly soiled. They should then be dried and placed in area with good air ventilation but with no direct and indirect sunlight exposure.