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Space suit technology can protect workers from heatstroke

The technology used in space suits to protect astronauts carrying out space walks in direct sunlight is now being used to develop protective clothing to safeguard firefighters and steel workers who often work in extremely hot and dangerous conditions.

"The existing protective clothing used while performing physically demanding work in hot conditions can, in many cases, hinder workers' ability to remain cool," explains Stefano Carosio from the Italian company D'Appolonia, Project Manager for the Safe&Cool Project.

"Through this project, named Safe&Cool, we are developing a special protective material with a built-in cooling system based on the technology developed for the space suits used by astronauts on the International Space Station to prevent them from overheating when exposed to direct sunlight during space walks."

In Europe alone, the inability to shed excess heat and moisture through clothing results each year in over 1500 heatstrokes. These can be fatal unless medical help is at hand. Even more common, but less serious, are cases of heat stress. This affects an estimated 50 000 workers each year and increases the risk of injury at work due to loss of concentration. Even at a temperature 21 C workers wearing impermeable protective clothing can suffer heat stress when carrying out hard physical work.

"Our objective, through the Safe&Cool project, is to develop a higher quality thermal and moisture management layer for protective clothing that complies with EU directives," adds Agnieszka Kurchewska, from the Polish Institute for Labour Protection, National Research Institute (CIOP-PIB).

"If used for protective clothing this new material will make the working environment safer and better through reducing the risk of heat stress and heatstrokes for those operating in what can be dangerous and often stressful jobs."

Conceived within ESA's Technology Transfer Programme, the Safe&Cool system is developed by a con
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Contact: Pierre Brisson
pierre.brisson@esa.int
31-071-565-4929
European Space Agency
3-Mar-2006


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