- Gas mask
A gas mask is a
maskworn over the face to protect the wearer from inhaling airborne pollutants and toxicmaterials. 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
glassor perspex; as glass is notoriously brittle, glass eye windows had to be kept small and thick. Later, discovery of polycarbonateallowed gasmasks with a big fullface window, as [http://www.qm-supply.com/zenstore/images/gasmask2.jpgin the image at this link] .
Some have one or two filters attached to the facepiece: [http://www.pembrokeshirevirtualmuseum.co.uk/extra_menu/can_you_remember/gasmask.jpgimage] . Some have a large filter connected to the facepiece by a hose: [http://www.fws.gov/rockymountainarsenal/Cultural/Images/Collectionimages/gasmask.jpgimage] .
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
adsorptionis 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 helmetwas 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 Humboldtalready in 1799, when he worked as a mining engineer in Prussia.
The gas mask was patented on
June 12, 1849, by American Lewis Haslettin 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 = http://inventors.about.com/od/gstartinventions/a/gasmask.htm | 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 Americaninventor, Garrett A. Morganin 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 Eriein the Cleveland Waterworks.
The first use of poison gas on the
Western Frontwas 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 MacPhersonof The Royal Newfoundland Regimentbrought the idea of a mask made of chemical absorbing fabric and which fitted over the entire head to England,cite book | url = http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext98/rrhin10.txt | 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 Helmetof 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 = http://www.gasmasks.net/database/uk/uk.htm | 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 Garnerread 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. [ [http://membership.acs.org/P/Pitt/13-24.pdf PG-13.eps ] ]
Royal Society of Chemistryclaims 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 = http://www.rsc.org/AboutUs/News/PressReleases/2008/HarrisonLetter.asp | accessdate = 2008-06-12]
In America thousands of gas masks were produced for American as well as Allied troops.
Mine Safety Applianceswas 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 agentor 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 Warera, 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.
* [http://www.gasmasks.net/ Le Masque à Gaz] International historical gas mask gallery, with collection of safety and propaganda posters.
* [http://www33.brinkster.com/iiiii/gasmask/page.html The Invention of the Gas Mask]
* [http://www.copsplus.com/chembioinfo.php What you should know about gas masks.]
* [http://science.howstuffworks.com/gas-mask.htm/printable How Stuff Works - Gas Masks]
* [http://www.nationalterroralert.com/gasmasks Gas Masks] Guide to selecting safe and dependable gas masks
* [http://www.rddusa.com/Your-Gas-Mask.html Your Gas mask] Guide to the maintenance of your gas mask
* [http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/topics/respirators/factsheets/respfact.html Respirator Fact Sheet]
* [http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/topics/respirators/cbrnapproved/scba/ CBRN SCBA NIOSH Approved Respirators] List of NIOSH Approved CBRN SCBA Respirators
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