Chemical Resistant Leather Materials for CBRN Boots
Donald B. Thompson, North Carolina State University
Responders to Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) incidents can
encounter a wide range of hazards including primary CBRN threats, flash fire, and physical
hazards that can puncture and abrade their protective gear. They often need to wear boots for extended periods, which can produce significant physiological stress and abrasive skin damage.
CBRN boots are usually made of rubber composites that can provide a high level of chemical
resistance. However, rubber chemical protection boots are uncomfortable and unstable. Leather composites are better materials for boot construction due to ruggedness, flexibility, and they are relatively light weight.
In fact, well designed leather boots, with linings to prevent intrusion of toxic chemicals, have been found to be very comfortable. The technical barrier to use of
leather components in CBRN boot applications has been the concern of repellency to toxic
chemicals due to the wicking of chemicals into porous leathers, and the inherent affinity of leather for water and polar chemical materials.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard on Protective Ensembles for
First Responders to CBRN Terrorism Incidents is aimed at a single use wear scenario.
Responders, however, would prefer to have boots that can be decontaminated and re-used for
multiple training exercises and responses. They want boots that can be worn with the most
protective and encapsulating Level A garments and Level B CBRN ensembles, and boots that
meet NFPA 1994 Class 2 standards.