Chemical Protective Clothing

Looking at the highest level of protection there is NFPA 1991 in USA and EN 943 in Europe. The NFPA 1991 is certainly the more demanding of the two.

USA

In America the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) issues standards on chemical protective clothing (CPC) for hazmat teams, first responders etc. The standards listed below have been published.

  • NFPA 1991 Level A protection for hazardous chemical emergencies
  • NFPA 1992 Level B protection for hazardous chemical emergencies
  • NFPA 1994 Protection for first responders to CBRN terrorism incidents 

NFPA 1994 specifies the requirements for class 2 through class 4 protective ensembles. For class 1, the highest level of protection, it refers to NFPA 1991.

In USA levels A through D are used. These levels are EPA/OSHA recommendations for skin and respiratory protection and do not describe the clothing in detail. The levels A-D are described in the OSHA standard Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard ("HAZWOPER"), 29 CFR 1910.120 Appendix B.  There are no standards linked to these levels except for the standards issued by the NFPA.

Europe

The European system for chemical protective clothing (CPC) is a series of numbers for different types and levels of protection, with corresponding standards describing the requirements on the products.

 

Type Explanation / Level of protection Product standard
1

Gastight top level of protection.

Protection from solids, liquids and gases.

EN 943
1a Gastight, breathing apparatus inside the suit. EN 943-1
1a-ET Type 1a for Emergency teams. EN 943-2
1b Gastight, breathing apparatus outside the suit. EN 943-1
1b-ET Type 1b for Emergency teams. EN 943-2
1c

Gastight, airfed suit (no breathing apparatus).

EN 943-1
2 Airfed suit (see 1c) but not gastight. EN 943-1
3 Liquid-tight protection. EN 14605
4 Spray-tight protection. EN 14605
5 Protection from particles. EN ISO 13982-1
6 Low exposure/risk protection from liquids. EN 13034

For suit types 3, 4 and 6 there are partial body versions designated PB(X) where X is the relevant type. Partial body protection could be jackets, trousers, aprons etc.

In Europe there is also a clear distinction between Reusable suits and Limited use suits according to CEN definitions, CEN TR 11610. The table below lists typical properties  for the two different suits types.

 

Property Reusable CPC Limited use CPC
Material

Rubber or rubber plus plastic laminate on woven fabrics

Plastic laminate

Tensile strength

Strong, 1000 – 1500 N

Low strength, 250-300 N

Flex cracking

Durable, 50.000 – >100.000 cycles

Limited durability, < 5000 cycles

Flame resistance Good for most suits/brands but not all. Mostly not, many limited use suits burn very well!
Decontamination Yes No, not even hygienic cleaning according to CEN definitions, CEN TR 11610

Rest of the world 

The European and US suits standards are the ones most frequently referred to also outside these continents. It is not unusual for non-US countries to refer to the NFPA 1991 when top level protection for demanding applications is required.  There  are some National standards and specifications available although these have had little impact outside their region. Such local standards and specifications can be found e.g. in Russia, Japan, Germany and Poland.

There is an international standard, ISO 16602, that specifies a system of clothing with protection levels that are practically the same as in Europe. 

  • Last updated 3/22/2012
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NOTE: Copies of the standards can be obtained from your national standardisation organisation.