Gas Masks As CBRN Equipment

Since 1914, doctors, nurses and other biological-agent wranglers have been wearing gas masks. While it’s hard to imagine that a mask could prevent a coronavirus-infected droplet of spit, it might be able to protect against airborne particles.

The most common type of gas mask consists of a box connected by a tube to a mask constructed to fit closely over the wearer’s face. The box contains granules that absorb poisonous gases, and all air inhaled by the wearer passes through this system before entering his or her mouth. The granules also release chlorine and other chemicals into the air to neutralize poisonous gases, rendering them harmless to humans.

When it comes to working with this equipment, proper use is important. The mask’s chin piece and nose clip must be removed from the face to speak, and the mouthpiece should only be used when it is necessary. If the chin piece or nose clip are accidentally moved from their place, it is important to immediately replace them.

While effects of masks on graded exercise tests to volitional exhaustion are well documented1,2,3, studies that examine only steady state exercises (reflecting daily life and physical work) have shown no significant effects on oxygen uptake, carbon dioxide exhalation or heart rate during exercise. However, the mask does increase blood pressure and may reduce metabolic, subjective and cognitive performance.

Memorial University students have taken inspiration from this technology and developed a device that turns an off-the-shelf military gas mask into a piece of equipment that will work in an aircraft. The device, which is pictured here, is available for purchase and includes the military-grade gas mask, a compatible NBC-77 SOF CBRN filter and potassium iodide tablets in a leg-mounting pouch. It’s easy to store at home or in your car for preparedness in case of a disaster.

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