The History Of Protective Medical Clothing

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It is hard to believe that less than a generation ago we did not posses the technology to fight germs like we do today. Within the last 100 years we’ve seen incredible advances in protective clothing that is used in hospitals and clean rooms.

In 1910 polio was running rampant in the United States, and it wasn’t until the 1950’s that a cure for polio was found. It was during this time it was concluded that polio was transmitted via the nose and mouth, and many physicians and nurses started wearing plastic face masks. This was the start of protective clothing in the medical field.

In the 1960’s, more hospitals started shifting to disposable protective clothing items, ranging from masks to gloves to gowns. It was also during this era that testing on protective garments was conducted on those surgeries that were prone to infection. Some surgeons used NASA- designed protective suits, complete with a bubble helmet to fight the spread of germs during surgery.

Today a lot of that has changed, but many of those processes still continue to help keep environments clean. Much of those same protective garments are used in modern day cleanrooms. Each cleanroom is a little different, but the overall goal of the cleanroom is to keep a “clean” environment free of contamination. Cleanrooms are held to a cleanliness standard based on what types of processes take place within the cleanroom. These standards were originally set through the Federal 209e standards, but are now outlined through the ISO standards.

As you might expect, cleanrooms that handle very sensitive processes such as electronics or certain types of pharmaceuticals may require full head- to- toe protective clothing. This may include booties, face masks, bunny suits, several sets of gloves and goggles.

Furthermore, cleanrooms may require additional measures to ensure particulates and contaminates don’t enter the cleanroom. These extra protective measures are often built into the design of the clean room. Ante rooms and air showers are often placed before entering into the controlled environment. High speed jets of air will blow particulates off of operators before entering the room.

Having a quality-built cleanroom used in conjunction with this protective clothing is important to ensure that these cleanrooms are functioning at the proper level of cleanliness. Well- made cleanrooms are built to strict quality assurance standards, and some of the highest quality cleanrooms are those that are built with modular construction.

In conclusion, technology has come a long way from a single plastic face shield to the advanced protective garments worn by cleanroom operators and medical professionals today.