Cancer Coalition

Cancer Reduction: Implementing a Flash Hood Exchange Program

August 16, 2021

 “True prevention is not waiting for bad things to happen – it’s preventing things from happening in the first place.” Don McPherson, former NFL quarterback

As more South Carolina fire departments adopt safer cancer risk reduction measures, cleanliness has become the norm to ensure the least amount of exposure. One initiative gaining momentum is a “flash hood exchange” as having two flash hoods is the quickest and most inexpensive way to reduce the risk of carcinogenic particulate contamination through the skin.

According to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the levels of cancer-causing particulates are higher on the neck, throat, and jaw line. Additionally, the higher the temperature, the more permeable the skin is.

In the past, hoods worn under helmets and the turnouts firefighters wear were only made to protect them from heat. Today, new hoods provide an added level of protection from contaminates and are compliant with the most current National Fire Protection Association standards. Recent advertisements indicate an average 95%-98% particulate filtration of at least 0.2 micron, a measurement considerably smaller than a strand of hair.

One South Carolina fire department has adapted its equipment and cleaning practices to ensure the least amount of exposure. Their department’s internal safety program calls for PPV fans to help remove contaminants, hosing off crewmembers, and exchanging a “dirty” flash hood for a clean one. If the company needs to re-enter the IDLH, at least the clean hood will reduce the skin absorption through the neck area.

This type of swap (or exchange) requires the department to maintain a cache of clean hoods. The collected flash hoods are bagged and laundered to replace the stock of hoods needed for future incidents.

Lastly, avoid the temptation to alter your hood to accommodate after-market accessories, such as voice amplifiers for your radio. Any after-market alteration, modification, addition, or repair will likely void the manufacturer’s original warranty.

More importantly, let’s think of it this way. Your SCBA protects your airway. Let’s start protecting the largest organ on your body, your skin.

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