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Safety Articles

Article # 3203

Can limited-use garments be reused and/or decontaminated?
Courtesy of: Kappler

The answer to this question is not always a clear and concise one because no universal guidelines exist and no formal test method has been identified for decontamination.

When any article of protective clothing becomes contaminated with chemicals, it should either be discarded or decontaminated. The better choice in any given application depends on a variety of factors:

The toxicity of any chemical residue after decontamination
Unfortunately, there is no way to determine whether a chemical has been adequately removed from a garment to make it safe for reuse after decontamination.
 
There is no definition of "adequately"
For example, how much chemical residue can be retained in a garment after decontamination without posing an
excessive risk to the worker? The answer to that question depends on the safe skin-contact levels and on the rate of release of the trapped chemical from the material. Neither of these parameters has yet been determined.

There is no good method to measure residues in protective clothing to learn if an adequate reduction has been achieved.
A molecule that permeates into a protective garment can end up in several places. It can permeate all the way through and reach the inside surface, it can remain dissolved within the polymer film, or it can be trapped in a reservoir that may exist within the garment. In the second and third cases, a decontamination process that cleans just the surface of the garment (water/detergent washing) may not remove the trapped chemical. In order to achieve complete protection, any decontamination process must remove or destroy both surface contamination and also any hazardous material that has entered the garment matrix. For many chemicals, this is not an easy goal.
 
The endurance of the protective garments
Some materials may fail by losing permeation resistance, by developing cracks or pores, by becoming stiff, or by suffering other harmful changes in physical properties.

Cost
Discarding contaminated clothing may be the easiest, but most expensive option. Decontamination can be an attractive option if it helps to achieve optimum protection for workers at the lowest possible cost.

All of Kappler's suits are economical enough for disposal to avoid the uncertainty of decontamination. However, we understand that in certain cases decontamination may be an option. Below are some general guidelines:
 
When Decontamination for reuse is NOT recommended
Level A chemical situations involving unknown chemicals
Toxic chemicals - carcinogens, mutagens, skin-absorbers, etc
Visible physical damage to the suit - tears, punctures, staining, deformation, etc

When Decontamination for reuse may be possible
Identifiable chemical contaminant
Non-toxic chemicals - non-carcinogenic, non-skin absorbers, etc
Low amount of chemical exposure
No physical damage to the suit
 
It is the responsibility of the user and Safety Officer in charge to understand the problems and issues related to decontamination, in order to make an informed decision concerning the reuse of any chemical suit. Perhaps the best advice when it comes to reusing limited-use clothing is: "when in doubt, throw it out".

(Note: The above discussion is about decontamination for REUSE. Contaminated single-use protective clothing may result in the transfer of that contamination to the wearer's clothing during doffing of the CPC. In this situation, single-use garments should be decontaminated before the worker disrobes.)

Warning: There are uses, environments and chemicals for which these garments and/or fabrics are unsuitable. It is the responsibility of the user to review available data and verify that the garment and/or fabric is appropriate for the intended use and meets all specified government and industry standards.
Caution: Do not use for fire protection. Avoid open flame or intense heat.

Warning: There are uses, environments and chemicals for which these garments and/or fabrics are unsuitable. It is the responsibility of the user to review available data and verify that the garment and/or fabric is appropriate for the intended use and meets all specified government and industry standards.
Caution:Do not use for fire protection. Avoid open flame or intense heat
.
 
When Decontamination for reuse may be possible
Identifiable chemical contaminant
Non-toxic chemicals - non-carcinogenic, non-skin absorbers, etc
Low amount of chemical exposure
No physical damage to the suit
 
It is the responsibility of the user and Safety Officer in charge to understand the problems and issues related to decontamination, in order to make an informed decision concerning the reuse of any chemical suit. Perhaps the best advice when it comes to reusing limited-use clothing is: "when in doubt, throw it out".

(Note: The above discussion is about decontamination for REUSE. Contaminated single-use protective clothing may result in the transfer of that contamination to the wearer's clothing during doffing of the CPC. In this situation, single-use garments should be decontaminated before the worker disrobes.)

Warning: There are uses, environments and chemicals for which these garments and/or fabrics are unsuitable. It is the responsibility of the user to review available data and verify that the garment and/or fabric is appropriate for the intended use and meets all specified government and industry standards.
Caution: Do not use for fire protection. Avoid open flame or intense heat.
 
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