All of us have watched movies about a dystopian world attacked by an unidentifiable virus. The contaminants in the air are so lethal that people can’t breathe out in the open. These creative movies provided a glimpse of what our future holds. What is even more horrifying is the fact that these movies are somewhat closer to reality.
The times are not far when the air will be poisonous and when chaos, mass destruction, war, and terror will be the order of the day. And such prophecies tell us to be well-prepared for dreadful times. When we imagine a place drowned in chaos, we instantly think about a city in ruins with flames at various places. The black fumes emitting from buildings mix with the once-pure air and make the environment unhealthy.
To protect themselves from such harmful contaminants, we imagine people wearing protective gear – or gas masks. Even though we have neither seen nor used a gas mask, we know what it looks like. This important invention was designed for one task – to provide purified air to the wearer.
An essential part of a survival kit, gas masks basically ‘save’ lives. In this article, we’ll have a detailed look into the working of gas masks and their types. We’ll also provide details of the best gas masks available in the market as well as a brief review of their salient features.
Types of Gas Masks
Before making a purchase, the first thing that you need to know is the different types of gas masks available in the market and their features. The following are the two types of gas masks.
1. Full Face Gas Mask
As the name suggests, full face gas mask covers the entire face of a wearer. To increase visibility, the part that protects the eyes are covered with glass or plastic plates. Also, they have a large filter attached below the mouth area that provides purified air to the wearer. Here is how a full-face gas mask looks like:
2. Air Purifying Respirator
Have you seen surgical masks? The white protective gear that doctors normally wear before surgery. These gas masks resemble a surgical mask and cover only nose and mouth. They also purify the contaminated air, but they don’t protect the wearer’s eyes. This is one of the major drawbacks of the gas masks as eyeballs are highly vulnerable to biological infection and chemical damage. A typical air-purifying respirator looks like this:
Which One Should You Buy
In our opinion, full-face gas masks are more beneficial than an air-purifying respirator. This is because the former gives complete protection to the face.
How Gas Masks Work
It is understandable that before you purchase a gas mask, you will be interested in knowing about how this gadget works. You might have seen a portable water filter that allows you to purify unclean water. Gas masks work on the same principles. Its primary duty is to provide detoxified clean air.
Even though gas masks have been around since a long time – they are said to be invited by the ancient Greeks, it was after Second World War that we begin seeing improved and even better face masks that were designed to save lives. As discussed above, these masks have a filter below the mouth that filter the unclean air to ensure that no person inhales toxic air.
The simple type of gas mask works as an air purifier. In ancient times, the Greeks would hold sponge on their mouths to prevent harmful substances from entering their lungs. These masks are similar to them. They block impurities in the air from entering your body. But these masks have a short useful life and you will have to replace the filter every 24 hours or so.
If you are looking forward to purchasing a gas mask for chemical absorption, you should use an activated charcoal system. But this type of filter will absorb certain chemical agents while ignoring others that are equally dangerous. Another option available to you is to use filters that use chemical reactions to neutralize the effect of dangerous chemicals. For example, during WWII, soldiers used to wear gas masks that contain sodium thiosulfate which would react against the chlorine in the air and neutralize it.
Regardless of whatever gas mask you go with, you should always remember to replace the filters regularly. Filters don’t last forever and using the clogged filters will do more harm than good.
Things to Consider When Buying Gas Masks
Buying a gas mask shouldn’t be an impulsive decision. You have to carry out proper research to find out which gas mask suits your needs. Here are some of the important factors that you must consider before buying gas masks.
1 – Not All Gas Masks
We have already mentioned the types of gas masks. Besides, we have also given a brief overview of how each gas mask differs in function. When you set out in the market to buy a gas mask, carefully outline the purpose for which you are seeking a gas mask. If you are buying one as a protection against certain kind of chemicals, you can go with a gas mask that uses chemicals to neutralize other dangerous chemicals. If you want protection from contamination from unclean air – not laced with chemicals – you can go with a simple type of gas mask.
2 –Handling of Gas Masks
We were fortunate enough to born into a world which was once free from toxic material. As a result, we never really covered our faces. But, we are increasingly getting close to a future where breathing will not be easy. This means that we will have to wear a mask that will aid in our breathing. As the name suggests, full face gas masks are fully covered. So, in the beginning, you may find it difficult to move around with a huge protective gear on your face. Now, imagine walking around while wearing a gas mask. It will be a bit difficult because the glass or plastic plates around the eyes area will even obstruct your view. When you are buying one, make sure to try them on to see which model you can use with ease.
3 – Spare Filters
Since filters are exposed to harsh chemicals, it is understandable why they have a short life. This means that while buying a gas mask, you have to stock spare filters as well. It is important to learn how to replace the filters so that you don’t have to rely on others to change them.
4 – Surplus Masks
Tempting as it may be to buy surplus masks from Army/Navy retail stores, don’t. These masks are either used or outdated. Used masks are not airtight anymore and won’t fit on your face. On the other hand, outdated gas masks are completely ineffective and cannot purify toxic air as required.
5 –Facial Hair
Many gas masks don’t work well with facial hair. And we are not talking about Gandalf-styled beard – even women have complained about it. Any type of facial hair can render the gas mask ineffective. If you are interested in buying gas masks, make it a point to regularly shave your facial hair.
6 –Training Exercise
Before buying a gas make, make sure that you have at least the beginners level of training and know-how to handle it. This includes that you know how to remove plugs from the filters and how to fix the mask on your face. You might be surprised to know that many people have died after incorrectly putting it on their faces.
The Final Word
We don’t what the end of the time will look like, but if scientific research is anything to go by, the future doesn’t look promising. In that scenario, it will be only about the survival of the fittest. And here the fittest refers to the person who has all tools available to fight with the changing environmental patterns. Once a prop used in films to show what the wars used to be in the past, gas masks are now becoming a necessity. If you want to buy one to protect yourself from harmful substances in the air or your job demands such protection, you should consider all the factors listed above before finalizing your purchase.