Chapter 9: PFAS-free Moisture Barriers in Structural Firefighting Gear
Published:17 Nov 2023
G. E. Campbell, S. Glazer, B. Stinger, M. Thompson, and S. Thompson, in Toward a PFAS-free Future
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This chapter provides an evaluation of alternatives to the use of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) as a moisture barrier in firefighter turnout gear. PTFE is effective as a moisture barrier because it is water and oil resistant, thermally stable, and breathable. While PTFE itself is considered inert and safe for commercial use, the use of carcinogenic PFASs in the manufacturing of PTFE that may be incorporated into the moisture barrier material is of concern. A two-pronged approach of policy evaluation and alternatives assessment was used to address the issue of PFASs in the moisture barrier of firefighter turnout gear. After conducting hazard and technical performance assessments on a variety of PFAS-free materials, this chapter proposes applying a hydrophobic coating or laminate onto a fabric to achieve a PFAS-free moisture barrier that minimizes hazards while meeting the required functions. Combining a fabric with a coating and a laminate all together could further enhance moisture barrier properties, but more research is needed to make a definitive statement on this alternative’s effectiveness. In addition to assessing chemical alternatives, this chapter proposes changes to the National Fire Protection Association’s testing standards for turnout gear, allowing PFAS-free materials to be considered in the evaluation process.