Flame Retardant Treated Arc Flash PPE Health Hazard Study by University of Washington

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Tacoma Power commissioned a study of their flame retardant treated PPE due to worker concerns about possible hazards to workers.  The basic outcome is positive; there is no literature link to negative health effects from the types of FR treatments used in arc flash PPE.  The health hazards on the internet are treatments to fabric in furniture and curtains but not what is used in AR PPE.  Beware of garments claiming to meet NFPA 701 as this is the “curtain standard” and these fabrics are tested to that standard rather than the arc standard(ASTM F1959, ASTM F1506) or flash fire standard (NFPA 2112, ASTM F1930, ASTM F2733).  Any garment meeting ASTM F1506 or IEC 61482-2 should not contain PBDE’s since that treatment is not permanent enough to meet the standard.

Thanks to Tacoma Power for sharing the report with the industry.  This should help put to rest the concerns about AR treated PPE. Lots of propaganda from one brand against another when the real enemy is arc flash, not one brand of fabric against another. The university study indicated no link to health effects with any of the common FR treatments in the key AR garments in the market today including modacrylic, FR cotton, FR cotton nylon and blends of these fibers. Many studies have been conducted on the smoke, and all those which have strong science have determined that the worst hazard from the smoke would be the hot gasses and all chemical releases would be of little or no risk to worker safety.  We know of NO workers harmed by smoke from arc rated garments to date and MANY workers saved by all the brands in this study.

Read the document here.

At ArcWear and e-Hazard our focus is to protect workers and keep the manufacturer’s honest. We do not sell AR PPE; we do testing and training.

Hugh Hoagland

does research and testing of PPE exposed to electrical arcs and is an arc flash expert. Hugh is a Sr. Consultant at ArcWear and Sr. Partner at e-Hazard. Read more about Hugh.

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