Excerpts from wlos.com:

The increased rates of cancer in the fire service have been a key topic for researchers and firefighters alike. In 2015, an IAFF study found particles of soot and smoke from structure fires could penetrate a firefighter’s turnout gear and could be contributing to the spike in cancer rates among firefighters.

Data gathered from a mannequin armed with sensors known at N.C. State as Pyroman, is one tool researchers are using to better protect firefighters from carcinogens that increase their risk of cancer. At Raleigh and N.C. State, there are half a dozen ongoing research projects aimed at providing better protections for firefighters.  At N.C. State’s Textile Protection and Comfort Center, researchers are using Pyroman and PyroHead to combat soot and smoke in structure fires from penetrating a firefighter’s turnout gear, which could be contributing to the spike in cancer rates among firefighters.

Researchers are studying what chemical compounds are getting stuck to and later releasing from a firefighter’s turnout gear. That could be relevant for volunteer firefighters who may store their gear in their personal vehicles and puts anyone in the vehicle, including their families, at risk for exposure to carcinogens.

N.C. State is also focusing on glands on a firefighter’s face and neck and whether protective hoods are enough. In 2018, N.C. state developed a device, a particulate filtration efficiency test, with a light meter attached, that lets fire departments check their hoods for weaknesses.

Getting soot and grime off a firefighter’s skin sooner also has more departments using wipes on scene. 

The research projects at N.C. State are funded through FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. To learn more about the program, click on the following link: NC State University Heat and Flame Protection TPACC