Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Ultraviolet Weathering of Firefighter Protective Clothing



Rick D. Davis, Joannie W. Chin, Chiao-Chi Lin, Sylvain H. Petit


Exposure to simulated ultraviolet sunlight at 50 C and 50 % relative humidity caused a significant deterioration in the mechanical performance of polyaramid and polyaramid/polybenzimidazole based Outer Shell fabrics used in firefighter jacket and pants. After 13 d of exposure to these conditions the tear resistance and tensile strength of both fabrics decreased by more than 40 %. The polybenzimidazole containing fabric was less impacted by these conditions as it maintained approximately 20 % more of its mechanical properties. These conditions also significantly degraded a water repellant coating on the fabric, which is critical to the water absorption performance of the Outer Shell fabrics. However, these conditions had little impact on the ultraviolet light protection of the Outer Shell as both fabrics still blocked 94 % of ultraviolet light after 13 d of exposure. Confocal microscopy showed these conditions caused significant surface decomposition of and the switch from ductile to brittle failure of the polyaramid fibers. Cleavage of the amide linkages and the formation of oxidation species (as observed by Infrared spectroscopy) suggested these conditions caused photo-oxidation of the polyaramid fibers. There was little evidence of polybenzimidazole fibers degradation.
Polymer Degradation and Stability


Firefighter protective clothing, turnout gear, Outer Shell, NFPA 1971, NFPA 1851, polyaramid, polybenzimidazole, polymer fiber, NIST SPHERE, tear strength, tensile strength, laser scanning confocal microscopy, ultraviolet transmittance, fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, textiles, service life, polymer aging


Davis, R. , Chin, J. , Lin, C. and Petit, S. (2010), Ultraviolet Weathering of Firefighter Protective Clothing, Polymer Degradation and Stability, [online], (Accessed December 10, 2023)
Created June 4, 2010, Updated February 19, 2017