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Ergonomics. 2004 Jan 15;47(1):75-90.

Heat stress while wearing long pants or shorts under firefighting protective clothing.

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  • 1Operational Medicine Section, Defence R&D Canada--Toronto, 1133 Sheppard Avenue West, Toronto, ON, M3M 3B9, Canada.


It was the purpose of this study to examine whether replacing long pants (P) with shorts (S) would reduce the heat stress of wearing firefighting protective clothing during exercise in a warm environment. Twenty-four Toronto Firefighters were allocated to one of four groups that performed heavy (H, 4.8 km x h(-1), 5% grade), moderate (M, 4.5 km x h(-1), 2.5% grade), light (L, 4.5 km x h(-1)) or very light (VL, 2.5 km x h(-1)) exercise while wearing their full protective ensemble and self-contained breathing apparatus. Participants performed a familiarization trial followed by two experimental trials at 35 degrees C and 50% relative humidity wearing either P or S under their protective overpants. Replacing P with S had no impact on the rectal temperature (Tre) or heart rate response during heavy or moderate exercise where exposure times were less than 1 h (40.8 +/- 5.8 and 53.5 +/- 9.2 min for H and M, respectively while wearing P, and 43.5 +/- 5.3 and 54.2 +/- 8.4 min, respectively while wearing S). In contrast, as exposure times were extended during lighter exercise Tre was reduced by as much as 0.4 degrees C after 80 min of exercise while wearing S. Exposure times were significantly increased from 65.8 +/- 9.6 and 83.5 +/- 11.6 min during L and VL, respectively while wearing P to 73.3 +/- 8.4 and 97.0 +/- 12.5 min, respectively while wearing S. It was concluded that replacing P with S under the firefighting protective clothing reduced the heat stress associated with wearing the protective ensemble and extended exposure times approximately 10 - 15% during light exercise. However, during heavier exercise where exposure times were less than 1 h replacing P with S was of little benefit.

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