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Zbigniew Dąbrowiecki, Małgorzata Dąbrowiecka, Romuald Olszański and Piotr Siermontowski
When working in chemical or biological environments, contamination is an extremely dangerous issue for the rescue services of the fire department, police and the army.
Modern protective overalls worn by fire fighters or dry “Viking” diving suits made from neoprene or nylon covered with polyurethane, have been proven to ensure sufficient protection. However, once the contaminated area is left, there is a need to perform decontamination of the external and internal surfaces of the protective overalls; in order to ensure the clothing continues to offer a high level of comfort and to retain the durability of said protective clothing, it is of course also necessary to perform a drying procedure.
Moreover, there is a risk of a transfer of pathogenic micro-organisms between persons utilising the same protective clothes, particularly in the case of expensive specialist suits. Micro-organisms which may potentially spread through clothing include intestinal bacteria, such as: Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, E. coli (including E. coli O157), C. difficile, viruses inducing infections of the upper respiratory tract and alimentary tract (noraviruses, rotaviruses, adeno and astroviruses). The risk of infection also involves the presence of the flu viruses, herpesviruses and pathogens transferred through skin, such as S. aureus (including MRSA), yeast-like fungi (Candida albicans), fungal strains inducing Tinea pedis and Tinea corporis . Pathogenic micro-organisms can easily transfer from fabric surface onto the body of a person wearing protective clothing.
From the numerous available techniques of decontamination of surfaces, equipment and protective clothing we propose to use for this purpose gaseous hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), a very effective biocidal agent. In field conditions, typical for the activities of rescue crews of the fire department, police and army we assume utilisation of a portable decontamination chamber enabling performance of a complete decontamination process.
The process lasting approximately 3 hours encompasses 3 phases:
• Drying phase;
• Decontamination with gaseous hydrogen peroxide;
• Catalytic combustion phase of hydrogen peroxide residues to a level safe for the environment.
The integrated humidity and H2O2 level sensors ensure automatic control of the entire process and the unique distribution system of gaseous H2O2 secures full accessibility of the biocidal agent to the external surface of protective clothing as well as its interior. Moreover, the container allows for the conduction of the complete decontamination of the rescue equipment, night vision devices, binoculars, field telephones, radio stations, etc. Upon decontamination cycle completion, we obtain a completely dried suit which can be safely used by another crew member.