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A new ally in the fight against potential carcinogens

A new, disposable cleansing wipe designed for first responders makes it faster and easier for firefighters and paramedics to clean up after a fire call


Medline’s new Critical Response Cleansing Cloths are made specifically for first responders.


Sponsored by Medline

By Laura Neitzel for EMS1 BrandFocus

Paramedics and firefighters want to help people. That’s why they chose a dangerous profession where they see horrors, subject themselves to harsh conditions and put their own lives at risk to save others.

Previous generations of firefighters wore the smudges of soot on their faces as badges of honor. But that was before a general awareness in the profession that they were paying for the privilege at the cost of their lives.

“When I got on, it really wasn’t something that we thought about. The retired guys would get cancer and have medical problems, but we didn’t really talk about it beyond that,” said Matthew Cohen, a veteran firefighter-paramedic with the Marshfield Fire Department in Marshfield, Massachusetts. “After we started seeing the number of cases, and especially the number of deaths, skyrocket over the years, I’d say the awareness now is unsurpassed. Everybody is very well aware of carcinogens now.”

In addition to wearing his firefighter-paramedic hat, Cohen also serves as the purchasing manager and director of materials for Brewster Ambulance Service, which supports several fire departments in the area.

“We do all of their rehab for the firefighters, we go to every scene, and we set up and make sure that they’re safe,” he said, “as well as the general public.”

After initially hosing off the larger particles during gross decontamination, now Cohen and his crews have a new product at hand, Medline’s Critical Response Cleaning Cloths, that enables them to immediately wipe off on scene.

Medline has supplied cleansing wipes for patients in hospitals and nursing homes for years, and now they’ve taken that expertise and used it to develop a sturdy cleansing wipe for first responders.

“Really the whole motivation to launch this product was because these professionals are exposed to soot and other potential carcinogens,” said Sohum Mansukhani, product manager for Medline’s patient cleansing products.

No kid stuff

Many departments have been using ordinary baby wipes for quick on-scene decon, but those aren’t designed for the needs of first responders.

“Just spraying ourselves off is great, but to have the ability to actually get some of the byproducts of combustion off is excellent,” said Cohen. “Up until now, we’ve been using baby wipes just to try to get some of this stuff off, especially the necks and the face. It was pretty terrible. I mean, baby wipes are designed for babies.”

Unlike baby wipes, Medline’s Critical Response Cleansing Cloths are made expressly for firefighters to aid in the removal of soot, ash and smoke that contain harmful chemicals and potential carcinogens.

The initial thought was to provide cleansing cloths so that as soon as a firefighter exits the hot zone, they can immediately wipe down their face, hands and arms to wipe away soot and the risk of other potential carcinogens on the skin, says Mansukhani. However, Medline soon realized that the cleansing wipes would be equally valuable to EMS professionals, who are also exposed to soot and other potential carcinogens when they are treating firefighters.

Tough enough for tough professionals

“You can give a firefighter anything and we will try to break it. We couldn’t really rip through them,” said Cohen, who placed his first order for the Critical Response Cleansing Cloths about five minutes after he first heard of them. “We’re trying to scrape and get the stuff off. These were quilted, so they actually grabbed the material. They had some cleanser in them, and they were nice and sturdy, which is exactly what we’re looking for.”

Although the Critical Response Cleansing Cloths are tough enough to wipe off soot, they are formulated with gentle phospholipids that clean the soot without the harshness of alcohol. In addition to being tough yet gentle, the cleansing cloths are used to help keep firefighters cool.

“When you come out of a fire, no matter what time of day it is or what time of year it is, we’re overheated,” said Cohen. “We can actually cool down the wipes, so at the same time that we’re cleaning ourselves, we’re cooling ourselves, and it works twofold.”

A bath in a bag for first responders of all stripes

Although the Critical Response Cleansing Cloths officially debuted at EMS World in October 2019, Mansukhani is already getting feedback from police officers and other EMS professionals who work long shifts in the heat and are looking at the wipes as something they can use to cool off and clean themselves up with while they are still on duty.

Although as both a firefighter and a paramedic who tends to firefighters, Cohen admits that even though there is greater awareness of the dangers of carcinogen exposure, first responders are always more protective of others than they are of themselves.

“I know all about carcinogens, and I know to get them off me,” Cohen said. “If they’re on me, I need somebody to kind of remind me of that, so that’s what we do on the medical side of things when we’re on a fire scene. The fire departments are actually very good about giving us control over firefighters’ health and wellness while we’re on the scene.”

Bringing it back to the other important part of his mission – to serve and protect the public – Cohen’s crews are also using the Critical Response Cleansing Cloths to clean up victims on a scene.

“We can’t have a house fire in December in Massachusetts and put people through gross decon and spray them down with water outside,” he said. “So that’s where these wipes are really going to come into play, and we’re already using them for that.”

Medline’s first foray into providing cleansing wipes to professionals is shaping up to be a welcome addition, making it easier and quicker for firefighters to wash their hands, faces and necks as soon as possible after a fire or in any situation where a first responder needs to clean off potential carcinogens and other unsafe residue from a tough job well done.

Request a free sample of Medline’s Critical Response Cleansing Cloths here.