ISEA Warns Against Use of MAE-Requalified Firefighter Breathing Cylinders

The International Safety Equipment Association is warning firefighters against use of "MAE-requalified" breathing cylinders, citing health and safety concerns.

The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) is warning firefighters against use of "MAE-requalified" breathing cylinders, citing health and safety concerns and reporting that studies have shown they can leak breathing air. In addition, ISEA reports these requalified breathing cylinders void manufacturer warranties, violate OSHA regulations, and don't comply with standards from the National Fire Protection Association and NIOSH.

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus cylinders requalified via the Modal Acoustic Emissions (MAE) process can leak breathing air through the aluminum liner. MAE evaluates the carbon fiber wrap but not the aluminum liner, which could potentially fail by fatigue or corrosion pitting if the cylinder continues to be used past its 15-year design service life.

As a result, SP-16320, the Special Permit used by third-party programs to requalify cylinders with MAE testing should not apply to SCBA, and ISEA has learned that SP-16320 is expired as of March 31, 2019.

"Saving lives is vastly more important than saving money," ISEA President Charles D. Johnson said. "Fire departments may be tempted by the siren song of a company that's pushing 'MAE-requalified' breathing cylinders, but giving in to that temptation will put firefighters at risk of having leaky or empty cylinders when they need them most. Never run into a burning building with an 'MAE-requalified' breathing cylinder."

Fully wrapped carbon fiber-reinforced aluminum lined cylinders currently in the market comply with U.S. Department of Transportation standards for a 15-year service life, but it is unsafe to use them beyond their 15-year service life.

A cylinder used by firefighters for 15 years has seen frequent, rapid fluctuation of extreme high and low temperatures, degrading its overall integrity. Cylinders eventually fail after their 15-year service life is exceeded, often because of compromised aluminum liners. MAE testing and visual inspection are insufficient to identify whether aluminum liners are compromised.

NIOSH has stated that MAE-requalified cylinders are not for SCBA use unless the manufacturer authorizes it. ISEA reported it is not aware of any manufacturers that allow use of MAE-requalified cylinders on their SCBA.

"Fire departments seeking a safe, legally, and regulatorily compliant option should speak with the SCBA manufacturer," said Dan Glucksman, ISEA's director of public affairs.

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