In this article we will look at the hazards associated with fighting fires and how this has recently been shown to have a direct connection to increased incidents of cancer in the firefighting community. Without the correct cleaning in place for uniforms and specifically the specialist PPE worn, these risks can increase. We look at the use of professional cleaning equipment and the guarantees that this can provide to the fire service when it comes to hygienically clean equipment that can reduce infection risks to the lowest possible levels.

The recent findings on exposure and cancer risk

Tackling fires on a regular basis, firefighters are exposed to a number of hazardous gases and particulates, as well as high concentrations of toxic chemicals. As a result, they are at an increased risk of suffering adverse health outcomes such as cancer. In July of 2022, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a World Health Organisation body, declared firefighting a carcinogenic occupation. The decision follows an independent University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) report commissioned by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), which reveals firefighters are four times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer compared to the general public.  


The report revealed shocking results, showing that firefighters were still being exposed to high levels of toxic contaminants during and even after a fire has been extinguished, as the carcinogenic chemicals remain on PPE clothing and equipment. Test samples found carcinogens inside firefighters’ helmets, on PPE (personal protective equipment), and even on breathing apparatus mask filters.  


For firefighters, wearing breathing apparatus’ is essential as it protects them from inhaling any hazardous fumes that could harm their lungs and respiratory system. Therefore, breathing apparatus must be cleaned thoroughly and hygienically to ensure the health and safety of firefighters.


Why use professional equipment?

Most firefighters are familiar with the need to have their PPE cleaned by specialist laundry services that use decontamination machines to ensure it is hygienically clean. However, outsourcing the cleaning of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and in particular the air respirators, is not always possible as many firefighters share this essential piece of kit. The cleaning of this, therefore, needs to be done by hand or by a machine in the fire station that can complete the clean in a very short space of time.

Although commercial cleaning equipment can be a significant initial outlay for a fire station, the life-cycle costings mean that ultimately both money and time is saved. Professional installation and maintenance of the equipment is also carried out by the provider, reducing any issues around downtime due to technical errors and creating greater efficiencies.


Guaranteed results

With carefully compiled programmes for cleaning and disinfection as well as its baskets for positioning and securing breathing masks and air respirators in its chamber, Miele’s PG 8593 Safety

freshwater washer is the perfect solution for the reprocessing of breathing apparatus. Importantly, the machine is both thorough and gentle on materials, providing reliability and reassurance that soiled apparatus is cleaned effectively, minimising potential exposure risks. Features such as a compressed air indicator and password protection for programmes settings, further increase process security, ensuring very short turnaround times and the rapid availability of equipment.

To effectively reduce the risk of cross contamination, the PG 8593 Safety replaces process water after each individual programme stage. An additional connection for demineralised water also guarantees a residue-final rinse. To maximise the care of high-quality equipment, the water temperature and exposure to disinfection is limited to 60°C and five minutes respectively.


Why choose Miele?

When selecting a machine to provide this type of cleaning you need 100% reliability. Systems from Miele Professional are perfectly suited to meeting the reprocessing needs of modern protective apparel. Miele’s high-performance machines, processes and accessories undergo constant development in collaboration with reputable manufacturers of protective gear. This results in the safe reprocessing of PPE, retains the functionality of garments and ensures the gentle care of fabrics.

Machines are simple to use, are tested to 10,000 washes to ensure best results every time and are compliant with Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regulations.

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