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Author Topic: Gas Masks and Facial Hair  (Read 5334 times)

Offline incendiary_dan

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Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« on: July 30, 2011, 05:33:42 PM »
A few years ago I bought one of those Israeli gas masks that you see a lot, but I noticed that they have a habit of catching my facial hair and causing some discomfort.  I also think too big of a beard can make it hard to get a good seal, but I try to keep mine short anyway.  Does anybody know of a model that doesn't have the habit of yanking on facial hair?

Offline The Professor

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2011, 06:13:43 PM »
<sigh>

It's like this:

If you want a protective mask to work, you have to have a complete seal all the way around.  This means either no facial hair or, depending upon the mask such as the MSA Advantage/M40, a "tight" goatee.

Think of it this way. . .can you put an airtight seal with duct-tape on the loop side (or hook side, for that matter) of Velcro?

No.

So. . .grab the Norelco and get a new look.

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Offline incendiary_dan

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2011, 06:24:31 PM »
So cutting through all that attitude, the answer is no, and that I just need to shave.

How about masks that are full hoods?

Offline soupbone

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2011, 07:33:08 PM »
There are some respirators on the market listed as escape hoods, designed for short time use to let someone get out of a fire or other emergency situation. North, IIRC markets one that seals around the neck - not too comfortable. If you are looking at these masks, remember there is a lot of junk out there - as a matter of principal, avoid any air filtration respirator that advertises to filter out Carbon Monoxide. There is no air filtration respirator that filters out CO, regardless of the ads.

Let me ask you this: what are you trying to protect against? Smoke, chemical / bio attack - this has an impact on the type of mask you choose, and the type of filters you select. The filter you got with your Israeli mask "a few years ago" may protect you from particulates at this time, but not from chemicals or gasses as there is a time limit on their effectiveness.  For the current GI masks, this is about two weeks out of the sealed package before they loose their NBC effectiveness.  This is without exposure to agents. After exposure, they should be changed ASAP.

What it boils down to is this - what do you consider more valuable - your facial hair or your health? As for your Israeli mask, see if you can stock up on new, sealed in pack canisters. Keep the one on it now for training or smoke and open the others only in a chem / bio emergency. If you can't get fresh filters, I suggest replacing it (them) with full face respirators from a reputable manufacturer. Expect to pay $150 - $200 for the faceplate + filter canisters, and make sure you get it fitted properly.

There was a lot of this discussion on this topic about a year ago - search Air Filtration Respirators, gas masks, escape masks, etc., and you'll get a lot of good information.

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Offline rustyknife

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2011, 10:05:52 PM »
While I was on a volunteer fire department when it came time to train or in real life use an SCBA, self contained breathing apparatus, I would use Vaseline on my full beard to get a good seal. Messy but it works. ???

I did keep my beard trimmed short however so that helped but if your not opposed to the idea of shaving then the clean face is the best method.
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Offline The Professor

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2011, 01:52:24 AM »
While I was on a volunteer fire department when it came time to train or in real life use an SCBA, self contained breathing apparatus, I would use Vaseline on my full beard to get a good seal. Messy but it works. ???

I did keep my beard trimmed short however so that helped but if your not opposed to the idea of shaving then the clean face is the best method.

Well, I guess being straightforward is akin to having an attitude, but. . .oh well.

SCBA is totally different from a protective mask.  Generally, a protective mask intended to filter out particulates and chemical or biological contaminants.  It does this by using the pressure generated by the wearer's inhalation to draw the contaminated air through filters.  If you can't get a proper seal around the perimeter of the mask, this means that there's a chance that contaminated air will make it through the compromised seal, instead of going through the filter.  Depending upon the nature of the contaminant. . .this could mean you die.

Now, another thing is buying surplus masks.  Most military masks placed on the surplus market are rejects.  There's a number of reasons they can be rejected from pinholes to microfractures in the mask to dryrot. Many of these deadlining causes can't be seen, easily and many dealers have sold, and will continue to sell, them completely ignorant of these facts.

Sadly, this means that if you want to prepare for a situation where you're going to enter (or leave) a contaminated site, you will have to spend some money to get a new, quality mask, learn how to use it, and obtain proper CBR-rated filters.

Attitude?  So be it.  But if you've ever seen the results of a nerve-agent, or read the symptoms, you'll understand why there is absolutely no compromise in protective gear.  Even using Atropine or Pralidoxime chloride (aka 2-Pam Chloride to military types) isn't an option to most of us, and if you DO use it. . .there's a good chance that you're going to be incapacitated for quite awhile as both are ALSO poisons, albeit more temporary than permanent.

In addition to protective masks, any prepper who is considering a defense against NBC contaminants should also have protective wear since many nerve agents, etc. can kill by contact with the chemical or biological contaminant.  Just protecting your lungs may not be enough.

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Offline reefmarker

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2011, 06:00:10 AM »
If you are not willing to cut your beard to clean shaven status and you want to spend some big money, you could get a positive pressure mask.

These still will not work 100%, but they will work alot better than a negative pressure mask.  The positive pressure masks sort of work like SCBA in postive pressure mode, but with filters.  They have a little battery powered blower that forces air into the mask.  This means any air leaks in the mask should be air leaking out.  Problem with these is they have a very short battery life time unless you are tied to a power source.  Military used to use these for pilots, don't know if they still do.

Problem with beards and negative pressure masks is that when you suck in the air will go into the mask through all possible places.  Most will probably still go through the filters, but enough will go through the bad seal to ruin what was already a pretty bad day if you had to don a mask.

P.S.  The hoods do *nothing* to protect / filter the air you breathe.  The hoods only keep the bad junk off your head and shoulders.  They also make wearing a mask even more miserable.  Notice the inhalation port/valve is outside the hood.

Offline geoffreys7

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2011, 08:55:09 AM »
Quote
While I was on a volunteer fire department when it came time to train or in real life use an SCBA, self contained breathing apparatus, I would use Vaseline on my full beard to get a good seal. Messy but it works.

Our department doesn't let guys with beards use SCBA at all.  :'(  Exterior only.

Offline soupbone

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2011, 09:46:21 AM »
+1 Professor.
There are some things you can go cheap on, and others, you just don't. Respiratory protection is one of these things where you don't go cheap.

Additionally, you have to get training in the proper wear, donning and maintenance of the mask. Back when the DOD first released (good) surplus masks to public safety agencies, they neglected to mention such things as inserts for eyeglasses, among other things. I was having lunch at a truck stop one afternoon (while driving back from a Chemical Warfare conference) when I overheard a group of Sheriff's Deputies discussing that morning's "CW Training". My trip was delayed a couple of hours - I could not in good conscience walk away. A quick inspection of the "good" masks revealed several that were disbonding in places you had to know where to look.

The last place to get a respirator is your local Army Surplus store or Preparedness Fair.

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Offline hanzel

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2011, 12:41:06 PM »
Shaving seems the only answer.  I know in my line of work, if you show up at an H2S site and you are not clean shaven you are given a Bic and pointed to the restroom. 
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Offline Asclepius

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2011, 01:54:48 AM »
While I was on a volunteer fire department when it came time to train or in real life use an SCBA, self contained breathing apparatus, I would use Vaseline on my full beard to get a good seal. Messy but it works. ???

I did keep my beard trimmed short however so that helped but if your not opposed to the idea of shaving then the clean face is the best method.

Dude... You smeared petroleum jelly all over your face and then went into a fire????

Offline Asclepius

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2011, 02:07:47 AM »
Whenever I have to undergo a fit test for a respirator I always make sure to let my beard grow out for a few days. I've never had a problem with the seal on HEPA masks, gas masks or SCBAs. I think no facial hair policies are fine, but the existence of such agency policies doesn't equate to proof that facial hair = certain death.

If I were you I would try to find someone with a fit testing hood so you know for sure. Many fire departments carry fit testing equipment. Maybe make friends with someone on your local fire department? Or consider volunteering with a local agency that provides emergency services. Otherwise I bet the manufacturer would have an interest in making sure you are properly fit tested. Try giving them a call.

Alternatively, grow your beard long enough that you can stuff it in your mouth and breathe through it like a filter!

Offline endurance

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2011, 09:50:43 AM »
Ironically, this is how Gillette got its start in the safety razor business.  Prior to WWI every single President of the US had facial hair, since WWI none of them have.  All the soldiers in WWI came back clean shaven because Gillette gave the soldiers safety razors (but not the blades) so their gas masks would fit.  When they got home it was a new look for America.  The little ladies liked it and the rest is history. 

As mentioned, there are work-arounds like positive pressure masks, but they're more expensive and more complicated devices. 
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Offline TexDaddy

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2011, 08:43:41 PM »
...Prior to WWI every single President of the US had facial hair...
Well,...um,... actually,...only 10 of the 26 U.S. Presidents before WWI wore facial hair. Only 5 of these wore full beards.

http://americanhistory.about.com/od/uspresidents/ig/Images-of-US-Presidents/
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Offline endurance

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2011, 08:50:56 PM »
Well,...um,... actually,...only 10 of the 26 U.S. Presidents before WWI wore facial hair. Only 5 of these wore full beards.

http://americanhistory.about.com/od/uspresidents/ig/Images-of-US-Presidents/

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #15 on: August 03, 2011, 01:24:25 AM »
Well, I'll be damned.  I was lied to by an episode of Modern Marvels on the History Channel.  ...Damn pinko commies...  Like NPR with commercials. ;)
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Offline ThePlainsman

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #16 on: August 03, 2011, 10:42:50 PM »
Store a beard trimmer with your mask. You should be able to trim up enough in a jiffy when needed.
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Offline Dan

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #17 on: August 04, 2011, 03:34:13 PM »
In my previous career as an industrial painter I had to use a respirator several hours a day, every day. I tried several types of respirators in an attempt to find something that would work with facial hair. Working in a fog of paint provided a very obvious visual indicator if your respirator was not properly sealed. On removing a respirator that had not properly sealed there would be streaks of whatever color had been sprayed at the corners of the nose. This didn't appear to have anything to do with where it was leaking, it just naturally collected there for some reason. The only one that worked for me was a positive pressure mask with the airflow turned way up. Too low and we would see the same visual indication that the mask had leaked. The PPM I had was capable of more airflow than the battery powered units because it was powered by a large compressor via a bank of filtration equipment and a hose I had to drag around behind me. While it may help, I highly doubt a battery powered positive pressure mask will deliver the airflow required to keep everything out. Since the equipment would be too heavy to carry and being tethered to a fixed location probably wouldn't work very well you are probably better off keeping a razor handy.
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Offline Fyrediver

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Re: Gas Masks and Facial Hair
« Reply #18 on: August 04, 2011, 09:55:33 PM »
The positive pressure masks being discussed are Powered Air Purifying Respirators.  Lighter than an SCBA, same filter types as a regular air purifying respirator.  This particular style uses a hood instead of a sealed mask.  Works well for bearded folks.
Here's what they look like and if you've got an extra $1100 or so it can be yours:
http://solutions.3m.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/Health/Safety/Products/Catalog/?PC_7_RJH9U5230GE3E02LES9MG812H2_nid=SPG34ZZT12gsF3RH7CD92NglZBJ0DMJN32bl