Effects of environmental temperature and humidity on evaporative heat loss through firefighter suit materials made with semi-permeable and microporous moisture barriers
Gao, H., Deaton, A. S., Fang, X., Watson, K., DenHartog, E. A., & Barker, R. (2021, July 22). TEXTILE RESEARCH JOURNAL.
The goal of this research was to understand how firefighter protective suits perform in different operational environments. This study used a sweating guarded hotplate to examine the effect of environmental temperature (20–45°C) and relative humidity (25–85% RH) on evaporative heat loss through firefighter turnout materials. Four firefighter turnout composites containing three different bi-component (semi-permeable) and one microporous moisture barriers were selected. The results showed that the evaporative resistance of microporous moisture barrier systems was independent of environmental testing conditions. However, absorbed moisture strongly affected evaporative heat loss through semi-permeable moisture barriers coated with a layer of nonporous hydrophilic polymer. Moisture absorption in mild environment (20–25°C) tests, or when testing at high humidity (>85% RH), significantly increased water vapor transmission in semi-permeable turnout systems. It was also found that environmental conditions used in the total heat loss (THL) test (25°C and 65% RH) produced moisture condensation in bi-component barrier systems, making them appear more breathable than could be expected when worn in hotter environments. Regression models successfully qualified the relationships between moisture uptake levels in semi-permeable barrier systems and evaporative resistance and THL. These findings reveal the limitations in relying on THL, the heat strain index currently called for by the NFPA 1971 Standard for Structural Firefighter personal protective equipment, and supports the need to measure turnout evaporative resistance at 35°C (Ret), in addition to THL at 25°C.