Physiological and subjective responses to cooling devices on firefighting protective clothing

Chinmei Chou, Yutaka Tochihara, Taegyou Kim
European Journal of Applied Physiology 2008, 104 (2): 369-74
The aim of the present study was to examine the effectiveness of ice-packs (ICE) and phase change material (PCM) cooling devices in reducing physiological load based on subjects' physiological and subjective responses while the subjects exercised on a bicycle ergometer while wearing firefighting protective clothing in a relatively high temperature environment (30 degrees C, 50%RH). Subjects were eight graduate students, aged 25.9 years (SD 3.2). Each subject participated in four 50-min exposures: control (CON), ICE, PCM of 5 degrees C [PCM(5)] and 20 degrees C [PCM(20)]. Each subject rested in a pre-test room for 10 min before entering the test-room where they rested for another 10 min, followed by 30 min-exercise and a 10 min-recovery period. The exercise intensity was set at 55%VO(2max). Cooling effects were evaluated by measuring rectal temperature (Tre), mean skin temperature (Tsk), body weight loss and subjective responses. An increase in Tre for PCM(5) and PCM(20) which was less than that for CON and ICE was observed. The increases in Tsk were depressed using cooling devices, but the cooling effects of PCMs were greater than ICE. The subjects with CON felt hotter and wetter than those in the other conditions. The larger surface cooling area, higher melting temperature and softer material of PCMs which reduces absorption capacity caused a decrease in Tre and Tsk for PCM(5) and PCM(20) which was more than that for CON and ICE. Furthermore, PCM(20) does not require refrigeration. These results suggest that PCM(20) is more effective than other cooling devices in reducing the physiological load while wearing firefighting protective clothing.

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