Toxic chem­i­cals

Popular Science - - CONTENTS -

THE DUPONT TY­CHEM 10000 haz­mat suit is overkill for just about ev­ery sit­u­a­tion. That’s the point. The getup blocks more than 320 nasty chem­i­cals for at least 30 min­utes. Some, such as the VX nerve agent (a deadly weapon), won’t breach it for eight hours or more, which is why first re­spon­ders don the gar­ments when wad­ing into clouds of nox­ious death. Here’s how it keeps its oc­cu­pants from melt­ing.


The suit is a sand­wich of ma­te­ri­als. The mid­dle layer is roughly 1⁄8- inch-thick punc­ture-re­sis­tant polypropy­lene, and a coat­ing on both sides in­cludes dozens of plas­tic poly­mers. Each of those has its own pro­tec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity, like stop­ping sarin gas.


The face shield gives res­cuers a 220-de­gree field of view, and it leaves enough room for a scuba-style res­pi­ra­tor to fit un­der­neath it—nec­es­sary since the garb is air­tight. The win­dow is a com­bi­na­tion of heat-tol­er­ant Te­flon and durable PVC plas­tic.


Dou­ble-lay­ered gloves al­low for both dex­ter­ity and pro­tec­tion. The outer skin is flex­i­ble neo­prene, which lets work­ers grip tools bet­ter than the slip­pery suit ma­te­rial would. The in­te­rior lin­ing is the same toxin-block­ing coat­ing that en­cases the rest of the out­fit.


The stitch­ing—nor­mally the weak­est part of cloth­ing—is this walk­ing bunker’s strong­est point. Dou­ble-sewn lines of polyester thread con­nect pan­els, and DuPont fin­ishes each junc­tion with a strip of chem­i­cal-block­ing tape on the in­side and out­side.

By Stan Ho­raczek / pho­to­graph by Jonathon Kam­bouris

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