Gas mask

Gas mask

A gas mask is a mask worn over the face to protect the wearer from inhaling airborne pollutants and toxic materials. The mask forms a sealed cover over the nose and mouth, but may also cover the eyes and other vulnerable soft tissues of the face. Some gas masks are also respirators, though the word "gas mask" is often used to refer to military equipment (e.g. Field Protective Mask, etc.) (The user of the gas mask is not protected by gas that the skin can absorb.)

Airborne toxic materials may be gaseous (for example the chlorine gas used in World War I) or particulate (such as many biological agents developed for weapons such as bacteria, viruses and toxins). Many gas masks include protection from both types. During riots where teargas or CS-gas is employed by riot police, gasmask are commonly used by police and rioters alike.

Aside from serving their functional purposes, gas masks are also used as emblems in heavy metal music, and by graffiti taggers because the mask protects them from the graffiti canister's noxious fumes. Also closely related is the eroticization of gas masks as a sexual fetish.

The traditional gas mask style with two small circular eye windows originated when the only suitable material for these eye windows was glass or perspex; as glass is notoriously brittle, glass eye windows had to be kept small and thick. Later, discovery of polycarbonate allowed gasmasks with a big fullface window, as [ the image at this link] .

Some have one or two filters attached to the facepiece: [] . Some have a large filter connected to the facepiece by a hose: [] .

Principles of construction

Unlike other breathing devices, gas masks do not require the user to carry an air supply as in the use of scuba gear. However, this means that the wearer depends on the air in the atmosphere, the same medium of the toxic materials. Thus, the mask must remove them and relay clean air to the wearer. There are three main ways of achieving this: "filtration", "absorption and adsorption", and "reaction and exchange".

Absorption is the process of being drawn into a (usually larger) body, or substrate, and adsorption is the process of deposition upon a surface. This can be used to remove both particulate and gaseous hazards. Although some form of reaction may take place, it is not necessary; the method may work by attractive charges, for example, if the target particles are positively charged, use a negatively charged substrate. Examples of substrates include activated carbon, and zeolites. This effect can be very simple and highly effective, for example using a damp cloth to cover the mouth and nose whilst escaping a fire. While this method can be effective at trapping particulates produced by combustion, it does not filter out harmful gases which may be toxic or which displace the oxygen required for survival.

Gas masks were used in World War Two when the bomb siren sounded. Everybody had to keep a gas mask with them at all times, because a siren could go off at anytime. There was a popular saying that went "Lose Your Gas Mask, Lose Your Life!"

Reaction and exchange

This principle relies upon the fact that substances that can do harm to humans are usually more reactive than air. This method of separation will use some form of generally reactive substance (for example an acid) coating or supported by some solid material. An example is resins. These can be created with different groups of atoms (usually called functional groups) that exhibit different properties. Thus a resin can be tailored to a particular toxic group. When the reactive substance comes in contact with the resin, it will bond to it, removing it from the air stream. It may also exchange with a less harmful substance at this site.

Though it was crude, the hypo helmet was a stopgap measure for British troops in the trenches that offered at least some protection during a gas attack. As the months passed and the use of poison gas occurred more frequently, more sophisticated masks were developed and introduced.

There are two main difficulties with gas mask design:

*The user may be exposed to many different types of toxic material. Military personnel are especially prone to being exposed to a diverse range of toxic gases. However if the mask is for a particular use (such as the protection from a specific toxic material in a factory), then the design can be much simpler and the cost lower.

*The protection will wear off over time. Filters will clog up, substrates for absorption will fill up, and reactive filters will run out of reactive substance. This means that the user only has protection for a limited time, and then they must either replace the filter device in the mask, or use a new mask.

History and development of the gas mask

A primitive respirator to be used by miners was introduced by Alexander von Humboldt already in 1799, when he worked as a mining engineer in Prussia.

The gas mask was patented on June 12, 1849, by American Lewis Haslett in Louisville, Kentucky. It was an "Inhaler or Lung Protector," issued for an air purifying respirator. Haslett's device filtered dust from the air. [cite web | title = Gas Masks - History | publisher = Mary Bellis | url = | accessdate = 2008-06-12]

Early versions were constructed by the Scottish chemist John Stenhouse in 1854 and the physicist John Tyndall in the 1870s.

One such design began as a "Safety Hood and Smoke Protector" invented by African American inventor, Garrett A. Morgan in 1912, and patented in 1914. It was a simple device, consisting of a cotton hood with two hoses which hung down to the floor, allowing the wearer to breathe the safer air found there. In addition, moist sponges were inserted at the end of the hoses in order to better filter the air. Morgan won acclaim for his device when in 1916 he, his brother, and two other volunteers used his device to rescue numerous men from the gas and smoke-filled tunnels beneath Lake Erie in the Cleveland Waterworks.

The first use of poison gas on the Western Front was on 22 April 1915, by the Germans at Ypres, against Canadian and French colonial troops. The initial response was to equip troops with cotton mouth pads for protection. Soon afterwards the British added a long cloth which was used to tie chemical-soaked mouth pads into place, and which was called the Black Veil Respirator. Dr. Cluny MacPherson of The Royal Newfoundland Regiment brought the idea of a mask made of chemical absorbing fabric and which fitted over the entire head to England,cite book | url = | title = The Riddle of the Rhine: Chemical Strategy in Peace and War | year = 1923 | publisher = The Chemical Foundation Inc. | author = Victor Lefebure] and this was developed into the British Hypo Helmet of June 1915. This primitive type of mask went through several stages of development before being superseded in 1916 by the canister gas mask of 1916.cite web| url = | title = The UK | work = The Gas Mask Database ] This had a mask connected to a tin can containing the absorbent materials by a hose.

In 1915, American chemist and inventor credited with the invention of the gas mask [Who Was Who in America, Vol. V, 1969-1973] James Bert Garner read a newspaper article describing a gas attack on British forces which he hypothesized had employed chlorine gas. Remembering experiments he had performed while teaching at the University of Chicago, he set about creating the first gas mask which he tested on two of his associates in a gas filled chamber. Following the successful completion of the test, he provided the results to the British government. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 30th, 1960]
Garner's mask was the first to be used on the Western front during World War I. [ [ PG-13.eps ] ]

The British Royal Society of Chemistry claims that British scientist Edward Harrison developed the first practical gas mask for mass production, a claim supported by a thank-you note written by Winston Churchill. [cite web | title = Gas mask inventor Harrison honoured in death by Churchill | publisher = Royal Society of Chemistry | url = | accessdate = 2008-06-12]

In America thousands of gas masks were produced for American as well as Allied troops. Mine Safety Appliances was a chief producer. This mask was later used widely in industry. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 30th, 1960]

Gas masks development since has mirrored the development of chemical agents in warfare, filling the need to protect against ever more deadly threats, biological weapons, and radioactive dust in the nuclear era. However, where agents that cause harm through contact or penetration of the skin occurs, such as blister agent or nerve agent, a gas mask alone is not sufficient protection, and full protective clothing must be worn in addition, to protect from contact with the atmosphere. For reasons of civil defense and personal protection, individuals often purchase gas masks in the belief that they protect against the harmful effects of an attack with nuclear, biological, or chemical (NBC) agents; which is only partially true, as gas masks protect only against respiratory absorption. Whilst most military gas masks are designed to be capable of protection against spectrum of NBC agents, they can be coupled with filter canisters that are proof against those agents (heavier) or just against riot control agents and smoke (lighter, and often used for training purposes); likewise there are lightweight masks solely for use in riot control agents and not for NBC situations.

Although thorough training and the availability of gas masks and other protective equipment can render the casualty-causing effects of an attack by chemical agents nullified, troops who are forced to operate in full protective gear are less efficient in completing their given tasks, tire easily, and may be affected psychologically by the threat of attack by these weapons. During the Cold War era, it was seen as inevitable that there would be a constant NBC threat on the battlefield, and thus troops needed protection in which they could remain fully functional; thus protective gear, and especially gas masks have evolved to incorporate innovations in terms of increasing user-comfort, and in compatibility with other equipment (from drinking devices to artificial respiration tubes, to communications systems etc). The gas mask has thus now arrived at a 'fourth generation' of development.


External links

* [ Le Masque à Gaz] International historical gas mask gallery, with collection of safety and propaganda posters.
* [ The Invention of the Gas Mask]
* [ What you should know about gas masks.]
* [ How Stuff Works - Gas Masks]
* [ Gas Masks] Guide to selecting safe and dependable gas masks
* [ Your Gas mask] Guide to the maintenance of your gas mask
* [ Respirator Fact Sheet]
* [ CBRN SCBA NIOSH Approved Respirators] List of NIOSH Approved CBRN SCBA Respirators

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • gas mask — ► NOUN ▪ a protective mask used to cover the face as a defence against poison gas …   English terms dictionary

  • gas mask — n a mask connected to a chemical air filter and used to protect the face and lungs from toxic gases broadly respirator (1) …   Medical dictionary

  • gas mask — gas ,mask noun count a special covering for your face that protects you from poisonous gas …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • gas mask — gas masks N COUNT A gas mask is a device that you wear over your face in order to protect yourself from poisonous gases …   English dictionary

  • gas mask — n a piece of equipment worn over your face to protect you from poisonous gases …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • gas mask — gas′ mask n. chem. a masklike device that filters air through charcoal and chemicals to protect the wearer against noxious gases • Etymology: 1910–15 …   From formal English to slang

  • gas mask — n. a device worn over the face to prevent the breathing in of poisonous gases by chemically filtering them out of the air …   English World dictionary

  • gas mask — noun : a close fitting facepiece connected to a canister through which all air breathed is drawn to protect the respiratory tract and face against irritating and poisonous gases : respirator * * * a masklike device containing or attached to a… …   Useful english dictionary

  • gas mask — a masklike device containing or attached to a component that filters the air inhaled by the wearer through charcoal and chemicals, for protecting the face and lungs against noxious gases and fumes, as in warfare or in certain industrial processes …   Universalium

  • gas mask — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms gas mask : singular gas mask plural gas masks a special covering for your face that protects you from poisonous gas …   English dictionary

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