NC170: Personal Protective Technologies for Current and Emerging Occupational and Environmental Hazards

(Multistate Research Project)

Status: Active

NC170: Personal Protective Technologies for Current and Emerging Occupational and Environmental Hazards

Duration: 10/01/2022 to 09/30/2027

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Non-Technical Summary

Statement of Issues and Justification

Stakeholder Needs: Occupational workers such as firefighters, first responders, healthcare professionals, military personnel, industrial workers, and agricultural workers who perform their job tasks in hazardous environments often rely on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect themselves from occupational hazards that can result in workplace injuries and illnesses. Recently, the term PPE has become a critical need for the public due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, demand has directly led to a shortage of PPE for occupational health and safety across industries and created a gap in the research and innovation of -PPE to be used in various settings. The PPE systems people wear for protection offer both functional benefits and challenges. PPE makes working in hazardous environments possible yet can interfere with the ability of the worker to perform essential tasks. Therefore, research and development of materials and product designs for PPE and the development of consensus standards were critical to our nation's welfare, security, and ability to compete in a global economy.


Providing well-designed PPE for occupational workers and the general population who face challenging environments is necessary to increase job effectiveness and preserve the health and well-being of the wearers. The U.S. industries that manufacture protective materials, clothing, and equipment lead the world in innovation and production . World-class research and development are needed to maintain this position. However, COVID 19 highlighted our weaknesses in PPE manufacturing, including supply chain dependence on China and just-in-time logistics (a standard production method aimed at increasing efficiency and reducing manufacturing and distribution time). Additionally, the pandemic showed extreme inequities in the distribution of PPE in rural and BIPOC communities.


A critical component of inclusion and equality for underserved users such as women, the aging population, child workers, and a racially and ethnically diverse workforce is well-fitted PPE.  An unfortunate reality for underserved users working in fields previously exclusive to or dominated by young males, such as the military, emergency services, construction, and mining, is that the PPE has been designed for men [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].  Even for industries, such as healthcare, where women make up a more equitable proportion of the workforce, women often ask in regards to their respirators, gloves, and PPE: "Are these only made for men?" [6]. Women and underserved populations differ substantially while men in anthropometric body dimensions and shape can increase the prevalence of ill-fitting PPE, which has implications for health and safety and task performance, and career retention [2].


Importance of the Work: Currently, most occupations do not have user-specific PPE designed to improve function, fit, and comfort for females and other underserved populations.  The lack of options concerns, given that ill-fitting PPE is associated with decreased mobility, increased musculoskeletal pain, discomfort, and decreased ability to perform occupation-specific tasks [7,8,9]. In addition, research indicates that female, aging, and underserved workers are disproportionately disadvantaged by the fit of current PPE available, including by standard products such as respirators, protective gloves and boots, and body armor systems.


To highlight the diversity of the workforce in the United States, we offer some statistics: In 2021, 22 million workers will be employed by the U.S. healthcare industry. 75% of the healthcare workforce is women, and 40% are people of color [10, 11]. The firefighter population has seen a steady increase in female firefighters and officers, and as of 2020, some 11,000 women work as career firefighters, and 40,000 women volunteer or work in part-time and seasonal sectors. Additionally, the workforce is no longer middle aged.  Workers' ages 65 to 74 were projected to grow by 4.2 percent annually and the number of workers ages 75 and above by 6.7 percent annually [12]. The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Program estimates that there are between 400,000 to 500,000 child farm workers in the United States. These numbers how a significant need 


The development and dissemination of adequate PPE require analysis and research in various component areas, including anthropometrics, implementation of textile sensing technologies, and garment design and testing. Development, evaluation, and dissemination of PPE has been the focus of the NC-170 research group since 1982, and we have become nationally and internationally recognized for our leadership and contributions to state of the art in this area. To date, our focus has been on the development and testing of functional textiles and protective clothing systems, and other wearable products.  We aim to continue to innovate broadly in these areas.


Technical Feasibility of the Research: Our recent focus has been on PPE for pesticide operators, firefighter PPE, and material development, including wearable sensing. Our focused research on problems across hazardous occupations has shown that both similarities and dissimilarities exist in functional needs and issues of failure or lack of performance in PPE. Evaluation of PPE in one user context will often provide valuable insight, background, and expertise to other domains. Our approach will implement the systems perspective that has produced practical innovation in previous projects to consider the materials, human factors, design, and dissemination components identified above. The application of our approaches of anthropometric and ergonomic analysis, implementation of new technologies, and community-centric research and outreach will result in significant advances in garment-based PPE and protective gear for the feet, hands, and head.


Even as occupational conditions grow increasingly diverse and hazardous, new technologies offer the opportunity to impart increased functionality, wearability, and usability to PPE systems. For example, in materials science, new textiles, fibers, and finishing technologies can better meet workers' functional and comfort needs. In anthropometrics and ergonomic analysis, body scanning and motion capture technology can bring increased speed, accuracy, and insight into the development of design parameters, the design of new systems, and the evaluation of garments and related equipment. In garment design, smart materials and electronic components, and machine learning can impart novel functionality to PPE systems and allow the wearer's health and safety status and needs to be monitored continuously to inform system functions or oversight. Finally, in policy making and enforcement, developing standards (e.g., ASTM, ISO) for design, evaluation procedures, performance, and care of PPE can ensure harmonized requirements and ultimately increased safety across all units within an occupation.


Continued research into the development of methodologies to effectively and reliably measure functional properties of both materials and garment systems to inform standards that will ensure appropriate protection is provided by the PPE, as well as information on the use and care of these items to maintain their effectiveness, will result in systems with proven effectiveness. 


 Advantages of doing work as a multi-state effort: Our group is uniquely positioned to address problems associated with PPE from multidisciplinary approaches. We are comprised of members with a wide variety of areas of expertise and research backgrounds. The group currently represents 15 universities, including the University of Minnesota, University of Oregon, Washington State University, Kansas State University, Mississippi State University, Iowa State University, Cornell University, Oklahoma State University, University of Hawaii, University of California – Davis, Buffalo State College, Baylor College, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Washington University – St. Louis, Florida State University, and Mississippi State University. The NC170 group has an established record of collaborative accomplishment, both internally and with community/user groups and external research partners. As a result, we have accumulated an impressive array of cutting-edge research equipment and research facilities and have developed expertise in implementing new technologies to further state of the art in PPE.


Potential Impacts: The approaches we have developed leverage our collaborative skills and our technologies to address the design, development, and dissemination of PPE technologies in a process that looks at 1) barriers to acceptance and use of PPE, 2) design, development, and testing of PPE materials and technologies, 3) development of performance standards for PPE, and 4) development of novel textiles, materials, and functionality for PPE. We will identify new opportunities for research and development in PPE for firefighters, first responders, law enforcement officers, military personnel, pesticide operators, and healthcare workers through foundational and empirical research on under-investigated areas of the human body and its relationship with PPE. Our priority is to focus our research on underrepresented users of PPE to ensure their continued participation in the workforce and their safety. We will address these identified opportunities to assess and improve the protection and human factor performance of PPE through research and product development. Finally, we will communicate, standardize, and validate these findings by developing research-based performance guidelines for PPE.

Related, Current and Previous Work

Providing well-designed PPE products and protective clothing items and systems, including hand, foot, and headwear, for occupational workers and the general population who face challenging environments is necessary both to increase job effectiveness and preserve the health and well-being of the wearers. The development and dissemination of effective PPE products and protective clothing items and systems require analysis and research in various research areas, such as anthropometrics, textile sciences, and product design, development and assessment. The NC170 group focuses on several areas that bring emerging opportunities: 1) development of novel functionality and applications of materials for PPE and health/safety solutions, 2) investigation of factors that impact the selection, use, care, and maintenance of PPE products and protective clothing items and systems, 3) assessment and improvement of protection and human factor performance of PPE products and protective clothing items and systems through research and product development, and 4) development, revision, and implementation of research-based performance guidelines and standards for items and systems of personal protective equipment and protective clothing.

Below is a summary of the NC170 group’s current and previous work:

Develop novel functionality and applications of materials for PPE and health/safety solutions.

CA continued development of rechargeable halamine and photo-active biocidal films, nonwoven fabrics, nanofibrous membranes, and hydrogel beads for various applications, including food containers and packaging materials that can provide surface self-disinfecting functions; CA has developed colorimetric, electrical, and ELISA sensors for pesticides and antibiotics for protection of human and environmental health. In addition, the team has developed detoxifying sensing materials for fumigants and chemicals. CA's research activities in the development of biocidal materials received funding from USDA-NIFA (three concurrent funds) and two grants from the Center for Produce Safety. CA's research activities on personal use sensors were funded by the California Department of Pesticide Regulations, USDA-NIFA, and the UC Davis Superfund center (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences).

IA has developed nanofiber-based colorimetric sensors used in chemical protective clothing for detecting pesticides to improve human health. Biodegradable nanofiber materials have been developed from fermented tea with enhanced mechanical strength and modified moisture absorption for sustainable textiles. In addition, novel materials that are bio-based, degradable, and have the intrinsic function of insecticides and/or insect repellant has been developed for protecting environmental and health protection staff. 

A research team in UHM has explored the use of Phase Change Materials (PCM) in PPE for regulating body temperature. In addition, UMH Developed apparel prototypes, which integrate with electrocardiogram (ECG) monitors, for improving firefighter safety. This work had been presented in conferences.

Washington State University (WA, Dr. Hang Liu) has developed all-polymer material based conductive fibers and sensors for smart wearables. An innovative fiber spinning technique was developed to process intrinsically conductive polymers into nanofibers and microfibers with both electric conductivity and enhanced mechanical strength and flexibility. Products made of these conductive nanofibers and microfibers demonstrated great potential for sensing applications on smart wearables for continuous human health monitoring and chemical sensing. 

NY (Cornell University) developed colorimetric sensors based on textiles to analyze sweat biomarkers. These sensors have been calibrated for the detection of urea, glucose, and lactic acid. Real-time analysis of the sweat from a firefighter can provide unique insights into their health, fitness and physical stresses.

Furthermore, since these sensors do not require external power supplies, they could be woven into existing apparel, and changes in color can provide easy-to-interpret information to the wearer. Furthermore, Hinestroza's laboratory has pioneered the use of Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs) on textile substrates. MOFs on textiles have been demonstrated as selective sorbents of toxic liquids and gases, as well as pesticides and insecticides. Having chemical moieties such as MOFs on textiles provides unique opportunities to tailor the protective properties of a garment to specific molecules without affecting the wearer's comfort.  

The Athlete Engineering (AE) Research Team at MSU has been awarded the NSF PFI-RP (Award #1827652) funding the design of our wearable technology from end-user requirements documented in our "Closing the Wearable Gap" peer-reviewed publication series [see references]. Through years of development, we have encountered hurdles wearable companies experience when designing new products. The most significant challenge has been designing laboratory tools to capture, filter, smooth, and de-noise data from wearables and compares the output to existing human performance laboratory gold standards. In addition, through the development of our sensor validation toolkit, we have successfully repurposed our validation tools to test other technologies' user acceptance and effectiveness. In the past few years, our team has worked extensively with commercial fishers to adopt and design personal flotation devices to be worn on shrimping vessels. Unfortunately, this vulnerable high-risk occupation does not readily adopt PPE despite the known risks and threat of death. With the onset of COVID-19, the team shifted focus to develop standardized filtration efficiency testing methods for non-medical fabric masks. We successfully developed a facial testing apparatus, patent-pending, based on CDC/NIOSH head forms to test fabric masks under the same conditions for N95s and surgical masks. In addition to filtration testing, we examined the fit of the mask on various head sizes and underserved populations. Publications from this effort are currently under review. As part of the research team, we have worked on protective occupational equipment for females, minorities, fishermen, farmers, athletes, etc.           


Investigate factors that impact the selection, use, care, and maintenance of PPE products and protective clothing, including hand, foot, and headwear.

MN, UO, KS, FL, NY, and IA led a national, 3D anthropometric survey of the hands, feet, and bodies of firefighters. Through this effort, we aimed to build our knowledge of the human form through anthropometrics to improve the safety, fit, and performance of firefighters’ gloves, boots, and turnout gear. We created a shareable database of all 3D scans and measurement data from the national anthropometric survey, which will become available to researchers, fire service organizations, manufacturers, and government entities to enable fire gear human factors research and analysis to be conducted. This shared, 3D anthropometric data will ensure continual, life-saving improvement of fire PPE and inclusive design.

MN and UO have created a first of its kind, large-scale 3D hand anthropometric database with over 800 hand scans. The database includes multiple types of data; 1) population information, 2) participant hand history and glove fit issues, 3) manual measurements, and 4) two scanned hand positions with landmarks. The anthropometric data and design research have informed functional glove and tool design for a range of fields and consumers.

Firefighters, particularly firewomen, experience fit challenges when wearing firefighting PPEs. OR, MN, KS, MO, and IA collaboratively conducted a research project to investigate firefighters' experience and concern with current firefighting turnout gear. The team analyzed the qualitative data, and 3D body scans collected in the 2018 iWomen conference and published a journal article. It was found that female firefighters reported fit challenges with the overall proportions of the turnout coats and pants and length issues. There are concerns about mobility and safety due to how the turnout coats and pants fit around firewomen's body. This research builds an understanding of specific fit problems on the ability of firewomen to do their challenging work in a safe and stress-free manner. To adequately protect firewomen, manufactures should prioritize the implementation of these findings to improve the safety and mobility that firewomen's turnout coats and pants offer them.

OR developed methodology for collecting female firefighting boot interior space, methodology to spec gloves that pair with anthropometric data, collection of female FF portable 3D scans, analysis of qualitative interview data, and developing a design process for better PPE glove design.

KS  researched injuries related to firefighting PPEs and identified design, sizing, and fit issues of current PPEs. A special focus is on female-specific protective helmets. Various technologies, including but not limited to 3D body scanning, 3D virtual simulation, and 3D printing, have been employed to develop PPE prototypes that could enhance the safety, performance, and mobility of firefighters, particularly female firefighters.

IA has developed hand-specific model and systematic tool (HMST) for hand thermal responses/injury prediction, manual performance analysis and to explore next generation high performance gloves for firefighters and other emergency responders. The HMST involves 1) a hand-specific thermoregulation model, 2) hand-glove manual performance model and 3) a specialized hand-form manikin evaluation system to simulate the physiological responses of hands, and predict glove protective and comfort performance. Iowa State has conducted material characterization and performance evaluation of firefighter gloves. Thermal resistance properties of glove materials and gloves under dry and wet conditions were evaluated for evaluating comfort.

Assess and improve protection and human factor performance of PPE and protective clothing items and systems (including hand, foot, and headwear) through research and product development.

CA developed textile-based electromyography (EMG) sensors using CAD embroidery and optimized embroidery parameters for high quality EMG sensing which can be used to monitor muscle activation in smart protective clothing; CA developed novel protective, cloth face masks for children studying fit and comfort for children ages between 6-10 years old; CA developed smart clothing that monitors ECG and respiration rate with embedded textile-based sensors.

UHM collaborated with researchers from NY, OK, CO, and IA in a group project assessing firefighters' needs for personal protective equipment.  UHM researchers also collaborated with researchers in OK and Chinese Culture University (Taiwan) in the development and validation of PPE, such as personal protective clothing, hook, and gloves. Another finding of the UHM team is that the use of impermeable PPE in extreme weather conditions may result in heat exhaustion/stress. Additionally, the discomfort may limit the wearers' ability to concentrate on the task or, in some cases, perform a task. This may consequently lead to a decrease in PPE acceptance. Lastly, pilot studies have been conducted to develop reusable partial and whole-body smart PPE.

Researchers in OK are dedicated to personal protective technologies with faculty working on domestic hot mitts, police safety and training, and garments for differently-abled people. They developed a Protective Textile and Clothing Laboratory at Oklahoma State University. They regularly use the Mixed Reality Laboratory to conduct research using augmented reality, virtual reality, digital prototyping, and large-scale 3D printing. Our research group also have used our Human Solutions body scanner (non-mobile), the Human Solutions iSize portal, and our new portable Artec Leo 3D scanner. They characterized the protective and comfort performance of textile and clothing materials using state‐of‐the‐art equipment. They also implemented statistical and computational modeling techniques to analyze the protective and comfort performance of textile materials and developed interdisciplinary research collaboration with eminent professors in the field of protective textiles and clothing. Their research on protective textiles and clothing has been disseminated in scientific journals and conferences.

MN was an integral part of a multidisciplinary team from design, engineering, chemistry, environmental health and safety, and medicine that developed a novel method for producing alternative face mask designs. We discovered early on during the N95 mask shortage, that a critical component of successful N95 alternative products in the United States is the ability to circumvent traditional avenues of sourcing and manufacturing. The new mask designs sourced components from non-endangered supply chains and did not require specialized equipment or a highly skilled work force. The mask initiative comprises four mask designs that were produced at scale during the COVID-19 pandemic. After rigorous design and material testing, and the development of a socially distanced manufacturing system, MN led a team of over 40 undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff to produce over 6000 masks for a crisis stockpile at M Health/Fairview and the University of Minnesota.  The short-term impact of the research is that our method will protect military personnel, health care providers, and essential workers by providing alternative masks that can be used if the local supply is down to zero. The long-term impact of the research is that it will provide design knowledge and an instruction repository that can be used for guidance in a future emergency or pandemic.     


Develop/revise and implement research-based performance guidelines and standards for items and systems of personal protective equipment and protective clothing.

University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) - In 1980's pipette method was developed to measure pesticide penetration through textile materials. In the 1980's and 1990's similar procedure was used for research on protective clothing for pesticide applicators. However, variations in methodology impacted the outcome of the studies. Interlaboratory tests as part of NC-170 resulted in the standardization of pipette method. Since then, research conducted as part of the NC-170 project, in collaboration with international entities, has resulted in the development of test standards for pesticide permeation and international performance standards for protective clothing and gloves. The partnership approach with international entities has allowed UMES to take the lead in several international initiatives. Research and network as a result of NC170 projects resulted in the establishment of the International Center for PPE for Pesticide Operators and Re-entry Workers at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES). National and international collaborations build upon the synergy that results in research that contributes to addressing issues that are of common interest. Research in collaboration with BASF (Germany) and Instituto Agronomico (Brazil) resulted in the development and validation of a pesticide surrogate is now the test chemical for ISO standards for protective clothing and gloves. The ongoing decontamination study focuses on methodology development and validation to measure residues in the washed garments. These procedures are applicable for woven fabrics with and without finish (including certified ISO 27065 Level C1 and C2 garments). In hot and humid climatic conditions, the use of impermeable coveralls, gloves, and respirators may result in heat exhaustion/stress. Additionally, the discomfort may be a source of the inability for the operator to concentrate on the task or in some cases perform the task. This may consequently lead to a decrease in PPE acceptance. Limited work has been done on the development of reusable partial and whole-body C3 garments.



  1. Develop and evaluate textile-based/wearable smart PPE systems to meet users’ needs
    Comments: Developing and evaluating textile-based wearable and sustainable/reusable sensing technologies for improving PPE that can monitor health conditions and environmental conditions. The outcome of the prototype of the new technologies will enhance users’ performance and improve safety. Specifically, the sensors will target physical and physiological strains and environmental conditions such as heat stress, thermal, chemical, biological, ionizing radiation hazards. In addition, sensors will measure indicators related to wearers’ physical exertion and strain or physiological and environmental conditions
  2. To assess, develop, and improve PPE performance, comfort, sizing and fit inclusivity for underserved populations
    Comments: Aim 1: Investigate underserved populations to identify needs for novel PPE development and/or re-design (e.g., pesticide operators and workers, female military, children , etc.) Aim 2: Conduct anthropometric research and establish PPE sizing and fit inclusivity standards/guidelines. Aim 3: Develop PPE prototype/s that meets the needs of underserved populations. Aim 4: Evaluate the user acceptance (including comfort, sizing, mobility, etc.) of PPE prototypes by conducting systems level evaluations including wear trials, usability tests, and protection effectiveness (especially in high hazardous areas). Aim 5: Assess compliance with mandatory certification performance requirements according to national and international standards.


Objective 1: Sensors/Wearable technology 

Develop and evaluate textile-based/wearable smart PPE systems to meet users’ needs 


  • ● We are identifying existing sensor and wearable technologies that apply to PPE through literature review and evaluation. First, using relevant keywords, we will conduct the literature review with different databases, including those related to textile and apparel, sensors, engineering, and sustainability. Then, through meta-analysis, we will identify different vital issues existing in the field of sensors used in PPE or other smart clothing devices. The subsequent literature searches will follow the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement (Moher et al., 2009).
  • Engineer/optimize existing fiber-based sensors and wearable technologies in consideration of targeted applications. Selectivity and sensitivity analysis to different hazards will be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the sensors. We will apply various technologies to engineer different sensors, such as temperature sensors, proximity sensors, accelerators, and pressure/light sensors. The goal of sensor application is to provide protection and thermal comfort to wearers from various hazards, including outdoor, chemical, biological, and ionizing radiation hazards. For example, electrically conductive nanofibers can block exposure to ionizing radiation and chemicals, and fibers containing liquid crystal cores could exhibit phase transitions from anisotropic to isotropic on exposure to current, temperature, or chemical vapors. In addition, high surface areas on nanofibers can be designed to selectively capture specific biomolecules including E. coli, S. aureus, and chemicals efficiently from aerosol or liquid demia and can be interfaced with the lateral flow or microfluidic assays.   
  • Develop and validate new textile-based sensors that are flexible, reusable, and washable to be incorporated as part of Smart PPE to monitor and respond to environmental conditions and wearers’ health and safety issues. The new sensors that demonstrate promising outcomes, based on validation studies, will be incorporated into PPE. Developed and prototype sensors will be compared with the existing sensors, such as the Holter Monitor, the gold standard of ECG remote monitoring.  
  • We are evaluating the effectiveness of new Smart PPE systems through lab tests, human trials, user feedback, and field tests. The comprehensive evaluation will validate improvement in sensing capabilities, user performance, and safety considering human factors, desirable material properties, and system effectiveness, including performing Meets standard for AATCC TM210-2019, Test Method for Electrical Resistance Before and After Various Exposure Conditions. 
  •  Participating universities have a broad range of equipment and facilities, and team members can share their samples for complementary tests. For example, members at Cornell University can provide analysis using facilities in the Cornell Center for Materials Research (CCMR), including state-of-the-art imaging, thermal analysis, and spectroscopy. Members at Iowa State University can provide analysis in Laboratories for Functional Textiles and Protective Clothing. The instrumentation includes the Thermal Protective Performance (TPP), Radiant Protective Performance (RPP), fabric stored energy testing, immersion tester, hot liquid, and steam tester, cone calorimeter for thermal degradation study, guarded sweating hot plate (skin model), moisture vapor transmission rate, air permeability test, video-based optical contact angle measuring instrument, sweating hand, sweating manikin test, etc. Members at Oklahoma State University can provide tactile comfort analysis using Kawabata Evaluation System, Sweat Dry Rate, Cone Calorimeter. UC Davis can provide antibacterial and antiviral tests on textile materials. Members at Mississippi State University can provide access to electrical sensor validation and motion capture assessments through the Human Factors Laboratory and the Neuro-mechanics Laboratory, as well as durability testing for textile materials. 

Objective 2


MN, OU, and NY will collaborate on surveying end-user needs, developing patterns, and developing virtual fit testing protocols for PPE prototypes based on the collected body scans and textile testing of PPE fabric mechanical and physical properties provided by TX & FL.”


MN, OU, TX and FL will collaborate on investigating underserved population end-users through online Qualtrics survey, collect anthropometric data through body scanning, provide textile testing of PPE fabric mechanical and physical properties, development of prototype (woven and/or knit), evaluate fit issues, and conduct human wear trials of prototype PPE for functionality and end-user needs. 


FL will collaborate on systems level comfort assessments of developed PPE items when worn on a three-dimensional human form through the use of a dynamic, 35-zone ANDI sweating thermal manikin. The modeling of physiological responses along with standard thermal and evaporative resistance testing and total heat loss measures will be explored. 


MN and CA will collaborate on conducting remote and field ethnographic user research to detect needs and wants regarding PPE use, performance and care including decontamination; development of PPE prototypes, user wear trials and usability testing; seamless integration of sensor systems in PPE prototypes.


OR, FL, KS & MN will collaborate on research and writing activities related to underserved PPE users, Specific work will include analysis and comparison of anthropometric measures collected through the Size FF study to fire gear spec sheet measures from the major FF companies, and how the Size FF measures compare to existing firefighter studies (Hsiao 2014; ISO,2017; COCFOA, 2006; Garlie & Choi, 2014) and NFPA.  


KS will collaborate on developing firefighting PPE prototypes, particularly headware for female firefighters, and conducting wear trials accordingly.


OR and MN will conduct research on machine learning and how it can be used as a tool for analyzing 3D body scans (landmarks, measures, geometric patterned relationships). 


MN will conduct mask fit and face anthropometry research of healthcare professionals and pediatric patients using methods ranging from ethnographic research, survey research, 3D body scanning research, manufacturing systems research, and prototype development/testing research.


Researchers with expertise in functional wearable product design and sizing will work closely with researchers working on PPE for pesticide operators to develop partial and whole body PPE that provide a balance between protection and comfort. Fabrics that meet requirements for ISO 27065 C3 garments will be selected for the prototypes. Detachable, reusable partial body PPE will be designed by the functional designers for parts of the body that require extra protection based on information from operator exposure and other field studies. MD will analyze the data from field study to provide specifics to the functional designers about parts off the body that require additional protection.


The performance will be tested in accordance with ISO 27065 in collaboration with lab in Brazil. The comfort, sizing and ease of use will be evaluated by operators in  Maryland and possibly California. Researchers will also work with international collaborators to evaluate the garments in other countries. Data collected in the US and other countries will be compared. This will increase the impact of research conducted by NC-170.


Underserved population: Pesticide operators exposed to pesticide in high exposure scenarios.  Operator exposure data for exposure scenarios (e.g., air blast spraying with open cab and hand held spraying in small farms and nurseries will be reviewed to identify parts of the body that require additional protection. In addition, input will be obtained from operators working in high exposure scenarios regarding their needs. For example, in past field visits, problems with hoods in rain suits worn during pesticide application using open cab air blast sprayer was identified as one of the issues. The side vision was impacted while turning the tractor from one row to another. Comfort was a major issue with impermeable garments.   

Based on the needs assessment phase, requirements for the partial body garments will be identified. Novel methods that will result in attaching and or securing the partial body garments will be crucial for the success of the project. In addition, to increase user acceptance, other factors such as sizing, easy donning and doffing, easy to clean, and reasonably priced will be important. Decisions regarding material that are conducive for the design and comply with certification requirements will be selected collectively. Phase one of the prototype development phase will include several options that will be evaluated to narrow the possibility to the ones that have the best potential. The final designs will be provided to garment manufacturers for development of prototypes for testing to ensure compliance with international standards.  

Garment prototypes will be tested in accordance with ISO 27065 Protective clothing — Performance requirements for protective clothing worn by operators applying pesticides and for re-entry workers to ensure that they meet the performance requirements. User acceptance will be conducted with garments that meet the certification requirements. 

Need for partial body garments for high exposure scenarios is an international issue. Therefore, NC-170 members will be working with colleagues in the US and other countries to obtain input from the users. This will allow for comparisons and potential for finding solutions collectively. NC170 researchers have used different formats for obtaining user acceptance input. Based on the user group, different formats such as questionnaires, group discussions, and self-evaluation using detailed instruction will be pilot tested prior to broader evaluations. Input from the participants will be used to refine the prototypes, if needed. 


Measurement of Progress and Results


  • Comprehensive digital repository of current wearable sensors and wearable technologies used in smart textiles and PPE.
  • Applied conductive materials and technologies suitable for smart textile applications.
  • Analysis of existing sensor technologies in comparison to developed sensor technologies. Identify the knowledge gaps of existing sensor technologies.
  • Layered nanofiber membranes and textile-based sensor technologies to protect from various hazards, including thermal, chemical, and biological hazards, while maintaining the desired comfort.
  • Evaluation of advanced sensors and wearable technologies to meet emerging users’ needs.
  • Needs assessment, garment prototypes and user acceptance data will be analyzed and applied to new PPE garments and safety products.
  • Underserved population needs study(ies) for occupational PPE will expand upon the limited existing literature. These data will describe the population, type of PPE, PPE design changes with regards to performance, protection, comfort, mobility, fit, materials, closures, construction, and gender differences.
  • Prototype PPE will be designed and tested to provide insight into effective materials, overall fit and protection, pattern changes, construction and seam joining techniques to meet the needs of the underserved occupational population.
  • Applied user acceptance of new/upgraded PPE will be disseminated based on wear trials, usability test, and protection effectiveness.

Outcomes or Projected Impacts

  • Increase the knowledge and applications of textile-based sensors and wearable technologies in developing smart PPE.
  • Increase knowledge and applications of user-needs for underserved populations in developing PPE
  • Create a system of methods, testing, and validation of textile-based sensors and wearable technology integrated into Smart PPE to support standardization of procedures.
  • Improved PPE product development, Smart PPE systems, and inclusive sizing systems will improve safety, comfort, and ability to function in hazardous conditions for various end-users.


(2022):Identify specific underserved PPE users. Complete a detailed literature review of PPE used by identified user groups. Investigate and develop a list of currently used PPE for this occupation. List materials, closures, construction, and seam joining for currently used PPE. Develop research designs that can investigate this underserved population best, such as focus groups, mixed methods survey, etc.

(2023):Begin prototyping PPE garment(s) based on results of research will include sourcing of materials, pattern development, and difference construction options.

(2024):Start wear trials, usability test, and protection effectiveness testing based on new/improved PPE using the underserved population and/or thermal mannequin to get feedback on PPE.

(2025):Revisions to PPE prototype based on wear trails, usability tests, and protection effectiveness testing. Depending on the type of feedback, additional PPE prototypes may need to be developed and tested to obtain ideal fit, comfort, protection, mobility, and performance features for the population.

(2026):All project outputs will be completed and disseminated.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Outreach Plan

The results of the research conducted for this project will be made available through presentations at national/international meetings, through submissions to refereed and non-refereed publications, special technical publications, and the annual reports published through NIMSS website. In addition, research information will be disseminated through individual interactions with textile companies, PPE manufacturers, and standards organizations such as ASTM, AATCC, and ISO. Guidelines/information will be developed for pesticide safety education programs. Educational materials will also be disseminated through the University Extension System at member Land Grant Institutions networks of educators in counties across the country.


Every member must be present at or connect electronically to the annual meeting at least once every three years in order to continue membership; a voting member from each institution must be present at every meeting; must show proof of collaboration with multiple authors from within the group once every five years through publications or other collaboration including extension/outreach.

The proposed members of the technical committee for this project are listed in Appendix E. For those states having more than one participant, one member will be designated as the voting member, as determined by that institution or Agriculture Experiment Station (AES) director. The organizational structure consists of a chair, a vice chair, and secretary nominated and elected annually; the vice chair serves as chair the next year. Any member of the technical committee can serve as an officer. The chair will appoint subcommittee members as necessary to complete specific tasks. The officers along with the project USDA-CSREES representative and USDA-ARS administrative advisor will serve as the executive committee. The advisors will be non-voting members.

The chair is responsible for notifying the members of the date and place of the annual meeting, preparing an agenda, and presiding over the annual meeting. The vice chair will assume the duties of the chair in the event that the chair cannot do so. The vice chair will be responsible for advance planning and organization of meeting sites. He/she will serve as chair for the next year. The secretary will be responsible for taking minutes of the annual meeting and filing them with the administrative advisor for distribution within 30 days of the meeting.

The duties of the technical committee (members in Appendix E) are to coordinate the research and other activities related to the project. The technical committee will meet annually (usually in the fall) for the purposes of coordinating, reporting, and sharing research activities, procedures, and results, analyzing data, and conducting project business. The administrative advisor will be responsible for sending the technical committee members the necessary authorization for all official meetings.

Sub-committees and meetings may be designated by the chair, if needed, to accomplish various relevant research and administrative tasks, such as research planning and coordination, the development of specific cooperative research procedures, assimilation and analysis of data from contributing scientists, and publication of joint reports.


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Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

Florida State University, University of California, Davis, University of Oregon, Washington University in St. Louis
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