Even though chemical weapons have not been used on a large-scale since World War I, the threat still remains of a terrorist assault on our soil using weapon-grade chemical agents. Should some extremist group decide to attack us, be ready to defend yourself with a gas mask. This mask features a 60mm standard NATO filter. Until very recently, this was the exact same filter used by the U.S. Military in chemical warfare operations.
The bad guys could hit us with a large number of agents. Chemical agents such as sarin, VX, and phosgene are a little hard to come by, but as we saw in Japan in 1994, it isn’t impossible for the bad guys to get their hands on them. Biological agents are a bit easier. Terrorists have used both anthrax and ricin to carry out attacks on the population. One of the biggest threats our country faces today is what officials call a dirty bomb. A dirty bomb is sometimes confused with an improvised nuclear device, but they aren’t even close to the same. If a dirty bomb detonation occurs, there may be few or no immediate reports. All you may hear is a dull thud or a muffled explosion. The explosion could take place in a high altitude location, such as the window or roof of a skyscraper, and spread radioactive material over a highly populated area. The population would not know about the contamination until hospitals began admitting patients with the same symptoms. If you can, think back to eighth grade science class, most radiation emits through alpha, beta, and gamma particles. Alpha particles are like radioactive dust, and victims can inhale them into their lungs, causing massive damage. An NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) gas mask can protect you from inhaling alpha particles during an attack.
There are several little known details that you should consider when dealing with a gas mask. There are certain ways of caring for a gas mask to ensure that it works properly, should you need to use it. Anyone who has ever been in the military can tell you that wearing a gas mask for an extended period of time is usually not a fun thing. They can be very uncomfortable, especially in hot weather. In addition, you tend to sweat more when wearing one of these masks. With regular use, these things will get very dirty. It is amazing how much gunk can come off your face. To clean a gas mask, don’t use alcohol pads or strong soaps. Alcohol can cause disbonding in the glued areas around the eyepieces. The main idea of wearing a gas mask is to have an airtight seal; leaks mean dangerous chemical could get inside the mask, resulting in a very unpleasant day. Instead, remove the filter, fill a sink with a small amount of mild soap, and gently wash the inside of the gas mask off. This should bring it back to a serviceable condition.
Never store the mask hanging up by its straps. The black skullcap on the back of the mask can lose its elasticity and when you go to put it on in a hurry, you end up not being able to tighten it. Instead, store it in a sealed container that you can open quickly, as you may not have much time to try to get to it in an emergency.
These NATO masks will protect you against airborne contaminants only. It is important to note that these filters are not rated to protect you against industrial chemicals, so don’t go waltzing into a chemical spill thinking everything is hunky dory. Also remember that these masks don’t supply their own oxygen, they simply filter the existing air around them, so don’t use them in a low oxygen environment either.
Always use these surplus items at your own risk. The filters themselves have expiration dates, but I’d rather have an expired filter than nothing at all.
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