Author Topic: Notes on gas masks  (Read 8327 times)

Offline Dainty

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Notes on gas masks
« on: February 03, 2012, 02:34:20 AM »
I don't know how many here include gas masks (more properly known as chemical cartridge respirators) as part of their preps, but for those who do or are thinking about it I thought I might start a thread for information on the ins and outs of actually utilizing them. Due to some serious medical issues I actually wear a gas mask on a regular basis and have learned a lot in the process, some of which might be helpful.

If I was more organized I'd wait until I had pictures and write up a detailed report for you all but as it is you'll just have to put up with my thoughts as they come. :P

As with other preps, there are more factors to consider with gas masks than just making sure you have one that (sorta) fits. Make sure you test it out by actually wearing it for a while. One issue I ran across was reactions to the mask material itself. If smelling the mask makes you feel nauseous, guess what's going to happen when it's held continually over your mouth and nose? Vomit blocking your valves is the last thing you want to be dealing with when the air around you is unsafe. There is also the possibility of a skin reaction upon prolonged contact. I've found that while far from ideal, this can be tolerable long-term. I get what looks and feels like a mild sunburn in a band around my face where the material touches my skin, which tans and peels off. I have not yet found a barrier solution that would also maintain the necessary seal, so I just put up with the reaction. You want to avoid these issues if you can, and the only way you'll know is by testing it for yourself. Different models and brands use different materials, and if you have problems with one it's likely you'll have success with another, so look around. Also don't hesitate to talk with a representative at a safety supply store; I've found them to be really helpful and more interested in making sure you get something that will suit your needs than they are in sales.

A proper fit is extremely important for wearing a respirator over the course of several hours. If the mask is too small, you can generally still achieve a successful seal but it will likely place undue pressure over other areas of your face. This discomfort is unwise to "muscle through", since it can result in pressure ulcers (more commonly known as bedsores) on your face. The bridge of your nose is especially vulnerable because there isn't much tissue between bone and skin. A pressure ulcer happens when blood circulation is cut off as skin and tissue is squished between bone and another surface until it begins to die. They can happen in as little as 2 hours and may progress to include necrosis and an open wound leading to infection. It is not pretty. The earliest stage can be deceptive in that it doesn't look so bad and might not even be painful, but once begun they're hard to reverse, especially if the pressure is a necessity. I squeaked by with a mask one size too small by rotating the fit to place pressure on different areas, taking it off frequently (it was painful!) and discontinuing for a while whenever I noticed a pressure ulcer developing. So if you really need to it can be doable, but I highly recommend starting out with a proper fit in the first place. Besides, when you need to yawn it's so much nicer to be capable of doing so! ::)

Gas masks are often presented as the stereotypical "extremist" preparedness item, which I feel is an underserved reputation. Everyone has experienced a dusty/smoky environment that makes them cough, paint fumes or other airborne chemicals that cause headaches or offensive odors that spread plain old misery everywhere. If nothing else, a good respirator can be utilized as a convenience item that makes life a little easier. While many people are put off by how much larger these masks are in comparison to the "dust mask" style that covers only the mouth and nose, in my experience both the comfort and protection level are so superior that this downside is more than compensated for. A complete seal ensures no particulates or odors sneak in the sides - we're talking a steaming cup of coffee right in front of you and you don't smell a thing. Pregnant women suffering morning sickness might find that helpful when breakfast is cooking. :) Another thing that makes a big difference in comfort is that the respirator isn't actually touching your mouth or nose at all, so while they might look claustrophobia-inducing, IMO they actually feel much airier than lower profile styles. This aspect is also important for long-term wear because as condensation builds from exhaled air it can be really uncomfortable to have wet material held against your face. I've worn my mask to the point of condensation trickling down the inside of it and I remained completely dry, only noticing the moisture after the mask was removed.

Which brings me to another point: just like all other equipment gas masks require maintenance, cleaning, and repairs or replacement parts. You don't want to wait until SHTF to discover one of your valves is leaking. Replacement valves and gaskets are cheap, lightweight, and don't take up much space, but if you're caught in a bind without them it can be a real pain to attempt to jerry-rig a solution. Moisture from condensation means that if not cleaned properly a mask can begin to smell funky from mildew or whatnot. Do you know how to disassemble, clean, and reassemble your mask without breaking it? When I first got mine I was too afraid of breaking something to pull it apart. As a result, after about a year of use one of my valves began sticking, requiring me to occasionally exhale with some force in order to push it outwards. It wasn't a big deal, but when a crisis came up where I needed to sleep in it I'd doze off only to be startled awake again and again gasping desperately for air. It was like artificial sleep apnea as my body was forced to re-breathe the same air until it couldn't handle it anymore. Not only was that situation preventable, but the solution would have been very easy had I been already familiar with disassembly, reassembly, and all the different parts of my mask and how they operate. It's not rocket science.

So if you have a gas mask, treat it like you do your other preps. Use it, familiarize yourself with it, learn how to take care of it and how to fix it if it breaks. Then you'll have it when times get tough, and even if they don't you can enjoy the convenience of superior protection and comfort. ;D
« Last Edit: February 03, 2012, 02:42:27 AM by Dainty »

Offline Truik

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Re: Notes on gas masks
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2012, 04:24:12 AM »
Good post!

I'd like to know:

1. In general, I know gas masks will protect a person from many substances but there are some things it is not designed to filter out. What will a gas mask stop and what will get through a gas mask?

2. How long can we expect those cartridges to last in actual use? How would one know when to change them?

3. What can we expect to pay on average and where is the best place to get one?

Thanks for starting this thread, Dainty.


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Re: Notes on gas masks
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2012, 06:10:59 AM »
Great write up Dainty.  +1

I've had them around for years and like you, I've used it on rare occasion when cleaning up a gasoline leak and didn't want to get nauseous or working around paint thinners and such.  I never took care of my masks and assumed that if they weren't letting in fumes, they were still good.  And while that's probably true for your less hazardous household chemicals, a buddy of mine who's had some hazmat training says that the filters have a finite life once they're opened because some of the materials in them are highly reactive to neutralize the worst of the warfare environmental nasties.  As a result, I keep a couple new filters sealed up and squirreled away just in case I need it for it's proper purpose. 

They have expiration dates on them, too, but he was less concerned about the expiration dates than the number of months they'd been opened.  He said anything past 60-90 days and he wouldn't trust his life to it.

Offline Ken325

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Re: Notes on gas masks
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2012, 11:55:37 AM »
I did nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) defense in the Army 20 years ago, and I currently wear a respirator at my job when working with hazardous substances.  My opinion is a gas mask is a very low priority item.  The reason is if you can't put the thing on in ten seconds your probably dead.  Do you carry you mask everywhere?  Do you train putting it on quickly?  The next thing is some chemical agents will work if small amounts are absorbed through the skin.  Think about a drop so small you can't see it being enough to kill you if it gets on your skin.  Then you have to know how to decon properly or you will contaminate yourself when you remove the gear.  This can kill you.  You would need a chemical resistant suit and a respirator to survive a few hours.  You could still touch something contaminated a week later and get enough of a dose to kill yourself.  I understand why people would want one but unless you have it on you it is useless. 

I do believe in having a N95 disposable filter or a good quality dust mask in your BOB.  This could help in a pandemic, dirty bomb type situation. 

You asked what breaks down filters.  You need to get this info from the filter manufacturers website.  It depends on the filter type.  Most blood agents will break down filters rapidly. 

Offline Dainty

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Re: Notes on gas masks
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2012, 01:15:57 PM »
You're welcome, glad it's helpful! ;D

...a buddy of mine who's had some hazmat training says that the filters have a finite life once they're opened because some of the materials in them are highly reactive to neutralize the worst of the warfare environmental nasties.  As a result, I keep a couple new filters sealed up and squirreled away just in case I need it for it's proper purpose. 

They have expiration dates on them, too, but he was less concerned about the expiration dates than the number of months they'd been opened.  He said anything past 60-90 days and he wouldn't trust his life to it.

Yes, once a package is opened the cartridges will set to work whether or not you actually use them, the only difference is that without air being forced directly through them it takes longer for them to get "used up" so to speak. You should be able to extend the opened shelf life of the cartridges by placing them in ziplock bags when not in use.

As far as trusting your life to it goes, the respirators I use specifically state that they are "Not for use in environments that are immediately dangerous to life and health". Rather, they offer protection "up to 10 times the Permissible Exposure Limit". In my current use of them I am often entrusting my life to them due to some significant health problems. My personal comfort level is if I'm expecting a chemical exposure that may be unusually strong then I generally won't go into it with cartridges over a month out of the packaging, and only then after I have worn them and determined by feel that they should be acceptable. If I have any doubt I can always take along an unopened package of cartridges just in case, though I've only done so once and have not found myself in need of it to date.

2. How long can we expect those cartridges to last in actual use? How would one know when to change them?

Some cartridges come equipped with a passive "End of Service Life" indicator, or "ESLI"s, however this may or may not be accurate as far as actual safety in use. The organic vapor cartridges I've seen do not have ELSIs.

How long they last in actual use will depend on how long they're worn for, humidity levels, and the concentrations of chemicals in the air at the time. So it's pretty subjective. I've only just now begun keeping records of how long mine last, but taking a rough estimate of what I've gone through I'd guess that I switch them out about once every 10 weeks, and that would be wearing it on average 4 - 8 hours a week in normal everyday environments and taking no special precautions to preserve the cartridges when not in use. When I remove the cartridges from my mask they still have a fair amount of potential use left, and I keep them on hand as singular backups until they're rotated to the trash when the next pair takes their spot.

"Singular backups" is just my term for breathing through a single cartridge sans mask, a little trick I picked up out of necessity once. It requires strict inhalation through the mouth only and an airtight connection of mouth to cartridge opening. I sometimes use this method when the air is okay enough that some accidental exposure would not be harmful. It's much less obtrusive than the mask, particularly for conversations or EDC, and is also used to bridge the gap if it turns out my mask is needed after all.

For the mask, as the time draws near to change them I notice inhalation requiring more effort, and the resulting air feels "muggy". Sometimes if I really stretch out a wearing I'll begin to smell the faintest traces of chemicals when I'm in an environment particularly heavy with them, but usually not. Usually the sensation becomes more and more obvious until I swap them out purely for comfort reasons, and I'm immediately rewarded by the notably fresher, easier air I get with the new ones in. Granted this indication requires some experience until you can be confident you recognize it, but the worst that happens is you needlessly open a new package, swap them, and notice no difference, at which point you can just place a pair in a ziplock bag and try it again later.

For my singular backups, if I inhale through them and they make me cough, I throw them away. :P But so far that's only happened when I've been lazy about rotating and I have ones that have been sitting in the open air for like 5 months after being used in my mask. Dust alone could probably account for that.

Which brings me to another note: chemical cartridges and particulate filters are two different things; each can be used in the mask individually or they can be combined either manually or packaged into a single unit at the factory. Some filters even provide nuisance vapor protection, but the job of filters is to trap particles; the job of cartridges is to adsorb and/or react with chemicals. Make sure you use the right item for the job. I rarely encounter high particulate situations but I want to make sure that if I ever do my mask won't be clogged by them. So I've opted to manually add filters to my cartridges, that way so long as the filters stay clean I can keep reusing them as I swap out the cartridges. If the reverse were true I could swap out the filters while keeping the same cartridges. I like the flexibility and the replacement filters are cheap, thin, and lightweight so it's little trouble to have them around.

1. In general, I know gas masks will protect a person from many substances but there are some things it is not designed to filter out. What will a gas mask stop and what will get through a gas mask?

That will depend on which cartridges are in the mask. I use the most basic cartridges, which are termed "organic vapor" and will generally take care of anything you throw at it with the following technical exceptions: formaldehyde, ammonia, mercury vapor, and acid gasses such as chlorine, chloride, and sulfur dioxide. I say "technical" because these are specs for work environments, so it's not like there is zero protection otherwise. I've walked by freshly ammonia covered windows and a chlorinated swimming pool without smelling either; it's just a matter of the protection cannot be guaranteed and doesn't last nearly as long as when the cartridge is designed to handle it.

Organic vapor cartridges use activated carbon to adsorb the chemicals, whereas the other cartridges rely on very specific chemical reactions to take place that neutralize the targeted chemicals. Some cartridges will protect from both organic vapors and one or more targeted gases - read the label to see which specific ones are included. I've never had need for the more highly specialized cartridges; if you're looking for the widest net to throw as far as covering the most chemicals at once the organic vapor/acid gas combo is probably it. I personally found that in my exposures I didn't have a need for it, and switched back when I noticed no difference.

This page is an excellent resource for info on chemical cartridges, and I used it to back up some of the above info.

3. What can we expect to pay on average and where is the best place to get one?

The best place to get one is in person from a safety supply store. Most of their customers tend to be big companies that do their business over the phone or computer so they're often really happy to work with someone face to face and in our experience will often give a discount just 'cause you're there. If you call in and talk about what you're looking for and why, and presently ask for a discount, it's likely you'll get one.

I tend to pay about $10 a mask and $9 per cartridge pair, or less depending on further discounts.

Offline Dainty

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Re: Notes on gas masks
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2012, 01:25:19 PM »
I did nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) defense in the Army 20 years ago, and I currently wear a respirator at my job when working with hazardous substances.  My opinion is a gas mask is a very low priority item.  The reason is if you can't put the thing on in ten seconds your probably dead.

See above post where I've quoted one manufacturer's note on this matter. The scenario you present is indeed one where a gas mask is not appropriate equipment, but it is not due to the concerns related to donning but rather of them not being built to handle such concentrations. Perhaps you're thinking more of supplied air respirators than chemical cartridge respirators?

Do you carry you mask everywhere?

Yes.

Do you train putting it on quickly?

Intentionally? No. Unintentionally? You bet, and frequently. It's particularly effective when immediate health consequences result from not being quick enough.

The next thing is some chemical agents will work if small amounts are absorbed through the skin.  Think about a drop so small you can't see it being enough to kill you if it gets on your skin.  Then you have to know how to decon properly or you will contaminate yourself when you remove the gear.  This can kill you.  You would need a chemical resistant suit and a respirator to survive a few hours.  You could still touch something contaminated a week later and get enough of a dose to kill yourself.

Yeah, I personally am not concerning myself with attempting protection from those kinds extra-dangerous chemicals. I'm more about just covering the basics. :)
« Last Edit: February 03, 2012, 01:42:56 PM by Dainty »

Offline Shaunypoo

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Re: Notes on gas masks
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2012, 01:40:12 PM »
I wear a half face respirator on a monthly basis while doing chemical lab waste disposal.  It is a 3M 5303 and is only equipped with an organic vapor/acid gas assembly.  There are a ton of filters that fit on this general purpose mask, and some that can be stacked.  I have an older model at home with multiple filters as well.  IMO, the best use is going to be in a pandemic type situation where a family member is quarantined and I am doing any attendance.  Otherwise, I don't think I have the ability (or family support) to get masks for my DW and 2 little girls.  I also am not going to make room in my EDC for this respirator.  Maybe a few fold up masks, but they don't do much.

Dainty, what do you do that you need your respirator all the time, if you don't mind me asking.

Offline Ken325

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Re: Notes on gas masks
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2012, 02:53:13 PM »
Quote
Yeah, I personally am not concerning myself with attempting protection from those kinds extra-dangerous chemicals. I'm more about just covering the basics.
  I'm talking about chemical weapons (nerve, blister).  If your not defending against chemical weapons then what are you preparing for?  Are you expecting a chlorine gas leak?  For some chemicals you must use supplied air (level B, level A is supplied air and a fully encapsulated suit).  Tell me what your defending against and I will tell you if what you have will protect you.  Again, you should have some disposable N95 filters on hand for more common threats.  This will stop most particles (dust, mold, bacteria, some viruses, some radioactive particles)  

A respirator is not guaranteed effective against everything.  You must have the appropriate filter.  You need training and you probably need 2 people to do a deacon properly.  If you work with the stuff then get the right respirator and filters from your employer. 

Offline TLBones

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Re: Notes on gas masks
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2012, 06:40:54 AM »
Fit is probably the most important factor in a respirator of any type.   When deciding on a respirator it's good to test it under some different positioning of the head/neck...can you bend over and lose seal with your face?  Turn to the sides? bend backwards, look up? Talking/Screaming lose seal?  Sweaty face?  Shaking your head vigorously?  Run in place? OSHA actually has developed a "poem" you read out loud during a fit test...can't seem to find it this second...     Full face usually provide a better seal than half face.   Some respirators just won't fit narrow faces or visa/versa.   Don't settle for a mediocre fit.

The most common problem I see on TV all the time in movies and also with asbestos workers who should know better is wearing a tyvek or chemical suit with the mask over the hood instead of underneath it.    FWIW:  I've had those organic vapor/acid cartridges go bad in less than 5 minutes...best to stock plenty in various types including ammonia. 
« Last Edit: February 04, 2012, 06:50:30 AM by TLBones »

Offline Dainty

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Re: Notes on gas masks
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2012, 10:29:44 AM »
  I'm talking about chemical weapons (nerve, blister).  If your not defending against chemical weapons then what are you preparing for? ... Tell me what your defending against and I will tell you if what you have will protect you. 

Preparing a defense against chemical weapons is certainly an interesting topic that it sounds like you could give some well-qualified advice on. However, it is not my personal focus; as mentioned, I require the use of a gas mask on a regular basis due to some serious health issues. While I appreciate your offer I'm not currently in need of your assistance to know whether or not my equipment will adequately protect me, as I experience it firsthand on a regular basis. Did you read through my posts? I know they're a little long and wordy, sorry about that, but it may help so we don't get mixed up.

Please keep sharing what you know, though. Even if it's not something I'm personally planning to do I find it fascinating to learn about, and who knows but one of these days I just might get started on it for the sheer fun of it. There are worse hobbies, right? ;)

Again, you should have some disposable N95 filters on hand for more common threats.  This will stop most particles (dust, mold, bacteria, some viruses, some radioactive particles)  

A respirator is not guaranteed effective against everything.  You must have the appropriate filter. 
.

Since I already have my gas mask on hand, I find it makes a lot more sense to have filters (I prefer P95) attached to the cartridges than to carry separate disposable N95 filters that, while better than nothing, do not offer the same protection as a good seal.

I wear a half face respirator on a monthly basis while doing chemical lab waste disposal.  It is a 3M 5303 and is only equipped with an organic vapor/acid gas assembly.  There are a ton of filters that fit on this general purpose mask, and some that can be stacked.

I settled on 3M as well, and love the stacking potential! It blows my mind that, if necessary, one could stack protection on top of protection on top of protection. I've not needed it so I haven't actually played around with those options, they just makes me smile. Amazing how advanced the world is these days.

Dainty, what do you do that you need your respirator all the time, if you don't mind me asking.

It isn't what I do, rather it's a medical condition that renders common chemical exposures from certain environments that are easily tolerated by healthy people unsafe for me personally. Before I started using a mask I was quite limited, and the freedom I now have with it on is such a gift that I hardly even think twice about wearing it in public anymore. I still prefer to go without it whenever possible, but people are generally kind and with a few ice breaking comments tend to adapt easily to the unusual sight.

Occasionally I'll be surprised with an exposure even within a "safe" environment, which is why I always keep my mask close even when not in use. To give you an idea of how the scenario tends to play out, the other day I was at home when I caught a whiff of something acrid that immediately sent me into a coughing fit. Being experienced in working through such exposures I did not inhale again, but instead dove for my mask. It took approximately 2-3 seconds to grab it and press it against my face and then, resisting the urge to take a deep gulp of air, I forced myself to exhale everything left in my lungs before finally relishing the relief of clean air in my lungs again. (I've learned that without clearing the air in the mask the first breath results in another exposure to the irritant.) I gave myself time to catch up on oxygen while placing the straps and pulling the fit tight, and then only after my breathing was back to normal and the mask was firmly secure did I investigate the smell. It was burning plastic. A pot had some plastic stuck to the underside of it and when a burner was turned on underneath it this was the result.

At this point most people would have opened the windows and stepped outside for some fresh air until things had cleared a bit, but my disability forces me to rely on others' assistance for such things. This time no one was immediately nearby to help me, but that was perfectly fine because with the mask on my lungs were safe from the fumes. I even encouraged my caregiver to take their time in finishing up what they were doing before coming over, as I was in no danger and completely unconcerned - just a little annoyed at the interruption to my day.

Whereas before I had my mask these sorts of scenarios were a major crisis that resulted in some pretty close calls. It's really nice to be prepared now.

TLB please post the poem when you find it! Sounds like a good one.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2012, 11:02:56 AM by Dainty »

Offline TLBones

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Re: Notes on gas masks
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2012, 07:02:19 PM »
Here you go Dainty:

Rainbow Passage: When the sunlight strikes raindrops in the air, they act like a prism and form a rainbow. The rainbow is a division of white light into many beautiful colors. These take the shape of a long round arch, with its path high above, and its two ends apparently beyond the horizon. There is, according to legend, a boiling pot of gold at one end. People look, but no one ever finds it. When a man looks for something beyond reach, his friends say he is looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow

This passage was designed by government regulators to make sure your jaw mouth movement when talking didn't compromise your respirator fit.   I remember reading this many times for different fit testing.

Offline Dainty

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Re: Notes on gas masks
« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2012, 05:25:47 PM »
Thanks, TLB, that should come in handy. I've found that one size down is doable - barely - under certain conditions. Besides being really uncomfortable it also significantly restricts movement and requires caution to avoid breaking the seal. For example if I were to turn my head significantly I'd use a hand to hold it tighter against my face to ensure the seal didn't break. It became almost second nature to me. Of course, when in the military or working with your hands this isn't an option.

With the new mask I recently got I've found it interesting to compare the two and note how the old one has aged. The half facepiece masks are 3M brand from the 6000 series and were actually not designed for such long term use; the 7000 series are much more suitable for this kind of wear because the parts are all individually replaceable, more durable, and the inhalation valves seal completely which should make cartridges last longer. Since the 7000 masks aren't an option for me instead I've got an ongoing experiment in how much the 6000s can take.

Here's a side by side comparison of the new (left) and old (right) disassembled facepieces: 

Most striking is the color difference - I'm almost certain they started out exactly the same color, but there's a slight chance I'm incorrect on that if 3M tints the sizes different colors. The older piece was purchased about 2 years ago and has undergone not only substantial use but also considerable abuse by being soaked in vinegar, repeatedly blasted with high levels of ozone, and other such processing necessary to decrease my reaction to it to tolerable levels. The material on the used piece is only slightly less firm than the new piece. The only real indication of compromise is that when exposed to dangerous levels of ozone the rubber becomes sticky to the touch and very soft, then gradually returns to its current state over the course of a few weeks. It did not do this initially, but the repeated exposures have broken the material down to this condition. Otherwise it appears perfectly good.

With the gaskets the only wear readily apparent is a faint ring, which isn't too bad:

...but when gently stretched you can see minor tears on the interior of the gaskets. The damage has not yet reached to spot where it seals so it isn't an immediate concern for my current use, but under more intense conditions I'd feel more comfortable switching out with new ones. They are also only slightly softer and less springy than the new ones. Keep in mind these gaskets were abused considerably along with the facepiece so this is not necessarily normal wear, in fact, with what I've subjected them to it's probably about as close to worst case as you'll see this side of the apocalypse.

The inhalation valves are the parts I'm most wary of. They're real flimsy things and, while still functional, continuing with the old ones would have been cutting it too close for comfort. With the poor quality camera and lighting I wasn't able to snap a picture worth showing, but the used valves are considerably yellowed, and when held up to the light reveal a multitude of what look like miniature creases and scuff marks. I'm planning to pick up a box of extras so I can replace these more often.

The exhalation valve is perfectly durable; no signs of wear, no concerns.



Here's a facepiece with a gasket, exhalation valve (blue, lower right-hand corner), inhalation valve (to the left of the exhalation valve) and a penny for size comparison. These parts don't amount to a complete mask; another piece (not shown) connects on top of the facepiece, which is what the straps are attached to, and then the cartridges and/or filters are added to both sides for a complete setup.

Offline TLBones

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Re: Notes on gas masks
« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2012, 06:39:48 PM »
Likely yes it is tinted different to denote the different size and/or model.   I know Drager does that, not sure about MSA or North.   It's a good idea to change out your valves and related parts periodically even if they don't look visibly different.   Great thread dainty.....
« Last Edit: February 10, 2012, 06:51:58 PM by TLBones »

Offline benos4752

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Re: Notes on gas masks
« Reply #13 on: February 29, 2012, 11:38:44 PM »
So, bumping this thread.

I am concerned somewhat with the possibility of attack now that I am living in San Francisco for school. Being a highly populated place, perfect place for a terrorist strike. I'm guessing from some of what I've read, I'm more than likely screwed in certain situations (like a chemical weapon attack). Is there anything that would be recommended for me to carry in the event of say a chemical attack? Biological? Dirty bomb? I already keep a couple N95 masks with me in my back pack since I have it with me almost everywhere I go in the city and keep most my EDC in there. What else should I throw in there? I was thinking of investing in a gas mask (which is what led me here) but from what I've been reading, with why I want it, not worth it?

Thanks,
Brandon

Offline archer

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Re: Notes on gas masks
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2012, 12:24:49 AM »
As with other preps, there are more factors to consider with gas masks than just making sure you have one that (sorta) fits. Make sure you test it out by actually wearing it for a while. One issue I ran across was reactions to the mask material itself. If smelling the mask makes you feel nauseous, guess what's going to happen when it's held continually over your mouth and nose? Vomit blocking your valves is the last thing you want to be dealing with when the air around you is unsafe. There is also the possibility of a skin reaction upon prolonged contact. I've found that while far from ideal, this can be tolerable long-term. I get what looks and feels like a mild sunburn in a band around my face where the material touches my skin, which tans and peels off. I have not yet found a barrier solution that would also maintain the necessary seal, so I just put up with the reaction. You want to avoid these issues if you can, and the only way you'll know is by testing it for yourself. Different models and brands use different materials, and if you have problems with one it's likely you'll have success with another, so look around. Also don't hesitate to talk with a representative at a safety supply store; I've found them to be really helpful and more interested in making sure you get something that will suit your needs than they are in sales.
I just found this thread, nice one!
Dainty, have you tried Bagbalm to protect  your face from the mask? Or does that cause a reaction?

Offline TLBones

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Re: Notes on gas masks
« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2012, 05:52:17 PM »
So, bumping this thread.

I am concerned somewhat with the possibility of attack now that I am living in San Francisco for school. Being a highly populated place, perfect place for a terrorist strike. I'm guessing from some of what I've read, I'm more than likely screwed in certain situations (like a chemical weapon attack). Is there anything that would be recommended for me to carry in the event of say a chemical attack? Biological? Dirty bomb? I already keep a couple N95 masks with me in my back pack since I have it with me almost everywhere I go in the city and keep most my EDC in there. What else should I throw in there? I was thinking of investing in a gas mask (which is what led me here) but from what I've been reading, with why I want it, not worth it?

Thanks,
Brandon

I guess only you can answer that question.  Even though I live less than 5 miles from nuclear power plant and 10 miles from major hospitals and research facilities with all kinds of methyethyldeath for me I place the risk of a chemical, biological or dirty bomb risk as quite low compared to the theats I'm prepping for like hurricanes, minor economic problems, etc. 

 Having worked in HAZMAT disposal and transport for the past 20 years I can tell you carrying a good full face respirator on your person is very combersom and impractical to really have closer to me than perhaps my vehicle continuously.   It would never be a true EDC, but maybe a BOB for me.  An N95? sure good idea go for it.  I no longer have my own APR assigned to me and don't have any real inclination to replace it soon, but that's me.   I could "borrow" APRs from work in about 10 minutes at any given time so maybe that tints my opinion.  I guess add up your perceived threats and see where a respirator rates for you.  Some of Jacks recent podcast comments about high impact low probability come to mind.   
« Last Edit: March 01, 2012, 06:19:06 PM by TLBones »

Offline Dainty

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Re: Notes on gas masks
« Reply #16 on: March 01, 2012, 07:07:40 PM »
Nice to see this thread around again.

I'm guessing from some of what I've read, I'm more than likely screwed in certain situations (like a chemical weapon attack). Is there anything that would be recommended for me to carry in the event of say a chemical attack? Biological? Dirty bomb? I already keep a couple N95 masks with me in my back pack since I have it with me almost everywhere I go in the city and keep most my EDC in there. What else should I throw in there? I was thinking of investing in a gas mask (which is what led me here) but from what I've been reading, with why I want it, not worth it?

Thanks,
Brandon

I don't have a straight answer for you but I'll throw in a few thoughts.

Lets say you decide to start EDCing a gas mask. The facepiece is going to be fairly bulky, more so if you go with a full mask. Assuming you have room in your bag for it, it would probably end up at the bottom of your pack due to lack of use. Since it'd be for emergencies only you'd want to keep the cartridge(s) in their packaging until the moment of need. So you can pretty much throw rapid deployment out the window. Also, in practical terms you probably won't be able to dig out and assemble your mask (rip open packaging and then place the cartridge(s) on the facepiece) while on the move. That doesn't make it useless but it is a significant downside, as in some cases stopping to tinker with things puts you in more danger.

Also consider that these masks really stand out. If you're the only one with a gas mask surrounded by lots of people who need one then I'd expect things to get hairy. Another potential scenario is that in the case of a chemical attack panicking, paranoid people might think that you knew it was coming or had something to do with it because no one carries around a gas mask all the time, right? :P

One possibility that you might look into is the disposable masks that are similar in style to N95 but provide some chemical protection as well (example). They wouldn't be as effective as a proper gas mask, but could be placed more quickly and probably wouldn't draw a second glance. I don't know if they'd be helpful enough, though.

Another thing is that with a bit of practice you can use a single cartridge on its own, though you must manually hold it against your mouth and make sure your lips are sealed on it. With enough practice the protection can be nearly as good as a mask, but it depends on strict breathing discipline as you must never exhale into the cartridge, and when inhaling you must block off your nasal passages. I've taught myself how to do this fairly unobtrusively so that it doesn't look nearly as weird as a full mask getup, and it works well enough as a stopgap measure but is highly inconvenient and tricky to get right, and you wouldn't be able to use it while running.

These two possibilities don't include anything for eye protection. I'd assume in the case of a chemical attack the substance would likely be irritating to the eyes as well.

Going back to the idea of carrying a mask and cartridges to go with it, recognize that all you'd be doing is buying yourself time. It might be enough time or it might not be, and you won't find out which it is unless/until the event happens. How much time you have will vary based on the concentration of chemicals and whether or not your cartridges were designed to handle that specific chemical. But when planning with then it's important to keep in mind that at some point they are going to give out, so rather than put it on and relax you'll want to be looking for the cleanest air possible no matter how many cartridges you have.

Another potential alternative would be a smoke hood with supplied oxygen, such as this one. It's basically putting a plastic bag over your head with provided oxygen and a passive CO2 scrubber. With this sort of a setup it doesn't matter what the chemicals are or their concentration because you aren't trying to filter outside air, and you can have a pretty good idea of the sort of timeframe it gives you.

Oh and on a final note, if I were you I'd personally swap the N95 masks for P100s, or as close to it as is feasible. The Ps are resistant to oil and the higher number means greater protection...I know practically everyone considers the N95s sufficient and I guess it's just a personal comfort thing. Here's the official definition on what the numbers and letters mean if you're interested. 
 
Dainty, have you tried Bagbalm to protect  your face from the mask? Or does that cause a reaction?

Thanks for the suggestion. I just looked up the ingredients; unfortunately anything containing petroleum jelly is out for me. It's a real shame because that stuff is so useful!

Offline archer

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Re: Notes on gas masks
« Reply #17 on: March 01, 2012, 08:16:42 PM »
Thanks for the suggestion. I just looked up the ingredients; unfortunately anything containing petroleum jelly is out for me. It's a real shame because that stuff is so useful!
something with bees wax maybe?