New Turnout Gear Aims to Reduce Firefighter Cancer Risk (Multi-Video)

Firefighters battle cancer as well as flames in toxic homes
Firefighters battle cancer as well as flames in toxic homes

A new suite of personal protective equipment (PPE) is intended to provide additional protection for firefighters from exposure to carcinogenic vapors and particulate matter at incident sites.

The Smoke and Particulate Resistant Turnout Ensemble (SRT), developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), a Finalist in the 2017 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program, in partnership with the North Carolina State University Textile Protection and Comfort Center (TPACC) and tested with first responders, is now available for agencies to purchase from LION First Responder PPE, Inc.

(LION’s V-Force® turnouts feature an innovative cut-in-motion V-Fit® design for more ergonomic fire gear that moves the way you do, while still offering unparalleled protection. Courtesy of LION and YouTube)

“It’s all about the plastics,” says Mark Johnston, president of Fire Fighters Local 452 in Vancouver, Wash. in an article from Peoples World.

Mark Johnston, president of Fire Fighters Local 452
Mark Johnston, president of Fire Fighters Local 452

“Fifty or 60 years ago, when a house caught on fire, it was all wood and natural materials. Now it’s all plastic.”

“Think about your house. Your clothes are all synthetic, your carpet is all synthetic, even the wood trim is not wood trim any more.”

“In a burned-up house, all kinds of toxic gases are being off-gassed,” Johnston said.

“When I started in 1983, we didn’t use our breathing apparatus for anything but a fire attack, and when you did your overhaul, you would take that off.”

“We didn’t know the science. But the studies now are showing that a lot of the products of combustion are absorbed through your skin.”

According to our colleagues at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the increased rate of cancer among members of the fire service, as compared to the general public, is quite alarming,” said S&T First Responders Group Program Manager Bill Deso, who led the research and development effort.

NIOSH studies have determined that over time, chronic exposure to toxic particulates in fireground environments contributes significantly to an increased cancer risk.”

“We worked with TPACC and LION to develop turnout ensemble garments that afford firefighters the same level of fit, functionality and comfort as their existing turnout gear with added protection from particulate infiltration at garment interfaces.”

(Learn More. DHS S&T shows a glimpse of some of potential future technologies, like lighter turnout gear that protects from toxins as well as heat, and integrated communications and safety devices that will help the firefighter of the future be better protected, connected and fully aware. Courtesy of DHS Science and Technology Directorate and YouTube)

Areas around the wrists, ankles, chest, stomach and neck where gaps in jackets, fasteners, wrist/glove interfaces, boot/pant leg interfaces, and the gap around the jacket hood and SCBA mask allow infiltration of particulates into existing turnout gear.

While the self-contained breathing apparatus protects responders’ respiratory tracts from combustion products in smoke and soot, hazardous vapors and particulates can still be absorbed into their skin when smoke penetrates these PPE interfaces.

(Learn More. Chandler Maness is looking for ways to protect firefighters from occupational toxins. Courtesy of the NC State Graduate School and YouTube)

To mitigate this, S&T developed two SRT ensemble concepts based on LION’s V-Force® turnout garments.

The first concept, now available for purchase, consists of a jacket and pants with particulate impermeable fabrics at the wrists, calves and ankles, and in an internal skirt structure in the coat that prevents particulates from entering the abdomen/chest area.

All of the protective features added to the V-Force® garments to develop the SRT concept garments can also be retrofitted into existing turnout gear.

The second ensemble concept also incorporates these enhancements, minus the particulate skirt structure in the jacket.

The pants for concept two include a removable bib that covers the upper chest, adding additional protection from particulate infiltration for the chest area.

This ensemble should be available for review at the 2018 FDIC Conference.

Steve Vandewalle of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.
Steve Vandewalle of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

Both ensembles are currently National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1971, 2013 edition certified. They will be certified to the NFPA 1971, 2018 edition in the near future.

S&T, TPACC and LION recently conducted an operational field assessment of the ensembles with several firefighters at the U.S. Fire Administration Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

“In the fire service as a whole, the cancer rates are way beyond the acceptable levels,” said Steve Vandewalle of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

Jason Smith, Montgomery County Fire-Rescue Department
Jason Smith, Montgomery County Fire-Rescue Department

“Exposure to particulate matter and when the gas vapors come through, that’s huge.”

Jason Smith of the Montgomery County (Maryland) Fire-Rescue Department agreed.

“The ensemble that they’ve created is a great first step. It’s taking one facet of potential exposure and removing it from the system… It’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

For more information about the Smoke and Particulate Resistant Turnout Ensemble, please contact

DHS Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) a Finalist in the 2017 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program

The 2017 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program, is organized to recognize the most distinguished vendors of Physical, IT, Port Security, Law Enforcement, First Responders, (Fire, EMT, Military, Support Services Vets, SBA, Medical Tech) as well as the Federal, State, County and Municipal Government Agencies – to acknowledge their outstanding efforts to ‘Keep our Nation Secure, One City at a Time.’

As an ‘ASTORS’ competitor, DHS S&T is competing against the industry’s leading providers of Innovative Critical Infrastructure Protection Solutions.

American Security Today will be holding the 2017 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Presentation Luncheon at 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m, Wednesday, November 15th at ISC East, the Northeast’s largest security industry event, in the Jacob Javits Exhibition Center in New York City.

At ISC East you will have the chance to meet with technical reps from over 225 leading brands in the security industry, allowing you to find out about new products and stay ahead of the competition.

Encompassing everything from Video Surveillance and Access Control to Smart Home Technologies and Unmanned Security, you’re sure to find products and services that will benefit your company and clients.

To register for the ‘ASTORS’ Awards Presentation Luncheon at ISC East, in the Jacob Javits Exhibition Center from 12:00pm – 2:00pm, click on the banner below, or go to

Good luck to DHS S&T on becoming a Winner of the 2017 American Security Today’s Homeland Security Awards Program!

Click here to learn more

Also please visit the New DHS S&T Mobilizing Innovation website at