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Protection Against Permeation for Fire Fighters

Safety for emergency first responders requires continuous improvement and a high level of equipment performance testing for design and functionality. This is particularly true when it comes to the risk of permeation when using Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA). It’s for this reason that MSA continues to improve the safety of their products so that firefighters can have the best protection against inhaling dangerous chemicals.

The problem sometimes even the minimum standards are not good enough. Some firefighting applications require performance testing for the CE certification of SCBAs that go beyond the minimal requirements of standards such as EN137 and EN136. This is because some chemicals are known to infiltrate or even percolate certain materials used in the manufacture of some SCBA components (especially face pieces, lung-governed demand valves [LGDV], and pneumatics).

Examples of these dangerous chemicals are:

  • Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S)
  • Phosgene (COCI2)

Even with a perfectly tight face piece with a high Nominal Protection Factor (NPF) and meeting EN136 total inward leakage requirements, a considerable concentration of such chemicals can percolate the assemblies of the respiratory protection device. This process is called permeation.

The difference between permeation and leakage:

Leakage occurs through gaps in the face and mask, whereas permeation occurs through the material itself.

No safety officer wants their firefighters to be at risk of ingesting dangerous chemicals. But the good news is that they don’t have to. The M1 SCBA has been designed to improve the safety of the user. MSA understands the special challenges of firefighters and has addressed this safety issue with the best knowledge, experience, materials, and state-of-the-art quality components: The innovative material composition of the G1 full face mask, the M1 LGDV, and the M1 pneumatics ensures increased chemical resistance and offers the best protection against permeation.

To test the performance and the enhanced safety of the M1 SCBA, MSA commissioned permeation testing by an accredited third-party test house. Due to the lack of a recognized standard or regulation detailing special testing methods against the permeation of hazardous materials other than CBRN agents, the tests were conducted according to a test procedure specially developed by MSA. It is a system test using the face piece, the LGDV and SCBA pneumatics to check the permeation into a complete respiratory device. This test method is based on the tests conducted according to BS 8468-1:2006 (British CBRN standard).

Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S)

Testing requirements and conditions:

Challenge concentration: (45 ± 2) vol% (H2S)

Testing time: 60 minutes

Breathing: 35 l/min

Test Result: insignificant permeation during the 60 minutes of testing time.

This means that at a concentration of approx. 45% by volume over 60 minutes, there was no breakthrough of H2S above the allowed concentration of 5 ppm (5000ppb).

Phosgene (COCl2)

Testing requirements and conditions:

Challenge concentration: (2 ± 0.2) vol% (COCl2)

Testing time: 60 minutes

Breathing: 35 l/min

Test Result: virtually no permeation during the 60 minutes of testing time.

The M1 SCBA offers a variety of features that enhance the safety of firefighters. Beyond the described protection against permeation of Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) and Phosgene (COCl2), an extensive number of M1 SCBA configurations is also approved according to BS 8468-1:2006:

Respiratory protective devices for use against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agents – Part 1: positive pressure, self-contained, open-circuit breathing apparatus – specification.

Furthermore, the M1 rescue medium-pressure line with the patented “CleanConnect” increases safety by cleaning the coupling with medium-pressure air flushing during the coupling procedure.

These are just a few examples of M1 SCBA features that increase your safety.

For more information or a free demo on the M1 SCBA, email us.

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