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Q: If the threat of nuclear, biological or chemical (NBC) terrorism is so great, why doesn’t the government issue gas masks to their citizens?
A: According to Stephen Rose, author of "The Coming Explosion of Silent Weapons," there are two reasons the U.S. Government has not issued gas masks to its citizens.
a. Because the issue is too unsavory and difficult to handle, especially in time of peace. The leaders of the country do not want to alarm the citizens with this threat.
b. Politicians who approve and vote on the budget would have a hard time voting for an 80-billion-dollar expense (which is what Rose estimates it would cost to supply every citizen of the United States with a gas mask and protective gear) to fight a heretofore invisible threat.
Q: Does any country provide effective protection for its people?
A: We at Neoterik studied how countries around the world prepare to meet the dangers of widespread terrorist attacks and incidents. We found one country that provided free masks. Israel makes sure that all its citizens are protected. The civil defense system in Israel is very good. It has been proved against real threats for decades. The core item of protection in Israel is a gas mask. The government provides good masks and filters for everyone. We anticipated the need for similar products in the United States and developed our own designs for gas masks, battery-powered respirators for first responders and special hoods for babies and children.
Q: What exactly is a gas mask?
A: A gas mask is a device that is worn to reduce the amount of contamination in the air that you breathe. There are different types. Some of them cover only your nose and mouth, some cover your entire face and some positive air systems have hoods. All gas masks have filters that are used with them.
Q: What is a PAPR or positive air system?
A: A PAPR, powered air purifying respirator, is a positive air system that uses a battery to power a blower, which then pumps air through a filter into a mask or a hood. The blower, battery and filters are usually belt-worn, and connected to the hood or mask by a breathing tube. The clean, filtered, cool air flows into the breathing zone. The airflow is much higher than the wearer needs to breathe, and the excess flow creates a positive pressure as it passes through the mask. This pressure pushes out, and keeps contamination from leaking in. This is different from a normal gas mask, which uses the wearer’s lung power to pull air through a filter. The normal type mask must fit tightly. A powered mask or hood can be loose. The positive air system is more comfortable and more protective. It is also more complex and more costly. Positive air systems are sometimes called PAPRs, for powered air purifying respirators.
Q: What makes a gas mask effective?
A: Concerning the effectiveness of masks, the key characteristics are the fit and the capability of the filter.
Q: Is the fit important with positive air systems?
A: The fit is not important on positive air systems provided they are properly designed and operational. The excess airflow creates a positive pressure that works to prevent contaminated air from leaking into the breathing zone.
Q: Is the fit important on regular masks?
A: Yes. With conventional tight-fitting masks the fit is very important because contaminants must not be allowed to leak past the seal on the face. If the mask doesn’t fit, it doesn’t work.
Q: How does the filter work?
A: Filtration technology works in two basically different ways. We filter particulates using one approach, and vapors and gases in a different way.
Q: What are particulates, and how do you filter them?
A: Particulates are particles of any size. They can be very large, or so small that they cannot be seen. Particulates include things such as bacteria, viruses, biological hazards, aerosols, mists, sprays, asbestos, dusts and so on. When we filter these things, we use a media that traps them. The media acts like a screen or a sieve. It is designed to trap the particulates and allow the air to pas through. The media must be capable of blocking and retaining small, toxic particles. Our media is tested against a particle that averages 0.3 microns in size. Compare this with anthrax, for example, which is a rod shaped particle that is 1 micron wide and 4 microns long. Just as you cannot squeeze a tractor-trailer through the door to your kitchen, so anthrax will not pass through our filters.
Q: What are gases and vapors, and how do you filter them?
A: Gases and vapors are substances that behave a lot like air does. They are not particles until we get down to the molecular level. Gases and vapors will pass through screens and sieves. When we filter gases and vapors, we cannot trap them so we use a media that absorbs them. This media will suck up gases like a sponge until it is saturated. Different types of filters will filter different types and amounts of gases. Not all filters will filter all sorts of gases. Our NP8000 filter was tested by the US Army against nerve gas. The test lasted for six hours and at the end of the test there was zero breakthrough.
Q: What if I need a filter for protection against both particulates and gases?
A: Some filters, like our NP8000, are combination filters and incorporate both particulate and gas filtering media.
Q: Why should I have a mask at all? Some people say there’s no point in having one.
A: Many people are getting masks. All the professional first responders like the police, emergency medical and fire department people are getting masks. These professionals know that there are times when a mask will save their lives. Not always, of course. There are some risks that a mask will not protect you against. But there are some that it will. A bulletproof vest will not stop a police officer from being shot in the head, but they do save lives. And the police do wear these vests for that reason. Masks are the same. There will be situations where they will help, and others where they will not. Many people in the general population are following the lead of the professionals and are getting protective masks for themselves. People are assessing the risks that we face, and making their own decisions.
Q: When should I use a mask? Some people say there’s no point in having one unless I wear it all the time. I can’t do that.
A: No, of course you shouldn’t wear your mask all the time. Generally, there are two distinct situations when you should wear a mask. The first is when a competent authority, such as the police, declares an emergency and tells you to take cover, to evacuate or even to put on a mask if you have one. The second is when you are in a situation that becomes an emergency and your own awareness makes it clear that now is the time to put your mask on. In today’s world, both these situations are genuine possibilities. We hope we never encounter such circumstances. But, realistically, such situations could happen while we are traveling, commuting, at work, at home, or doing anything else that is part of our regular lifestyle.
Q: Since many chemical and biological weapons are difficult to detect, won’t it be too late for me to save my life by putting on my gas mask or respirator once I’ve become aware of the threat?
A: In the worst case, if you’ve already been exposed, it may indeed be too late. However, putting on your mask will certainly curtail your exposure, and may make the consequences less severe. Also, remember, the first hint that NBC agents are being used on civilians will be instant news. It will be broadcast over radio and television immediately. It is likely that the duration of a gas risk could be estimated and made known. Even the direction of a spreading toxic cloud could be predicted and people in the path would be warned. Some people in the hot zone and certainly those in the warm zone will have sufficient time to respond. After a chemical or biological attack, the residual effects could linger from several minutes to several days, depending on weather conditions (wind, humidity, etc.) and the amount of toxins released into the atmosphere. For people who are prepared for this type of emergency, gas masks may well be a lifesaver. The bottom line is that when an NBC assault happens, some of us may die. However, many will survive. If we and those we care about have effective gas masks we will increase the odds of being among the survivors.
Q: Why should I use your gas masks, and not masks from somewhere else?
A: We are an American company, manufacturing here in America. Our products are designed to protect you against real threats. Every item is manufactured, inspected and tested against a rigorous quality control program. Our costs are very competitive. Our products are very easy to use. And, we are a one source manufacturer for many different types of masks, including our special configurations for babies and children.
Q: What types of gas masks do you offer?
A: We offer a number of different products with various advantages and benefits.
Q: What are the most protective products you offer?
A: The most protective masks and hoods we manufacture for protection against nuclear, biological and chemical hazards are battery-powered, positive pressure full masks and hoods. Our battery-powered products are the full face mask FR2 and the full hood FR3. These are both intended for emergency use by first responders such as fire fighters, law enforcement personnel and emergency medical services. They are kept on stand-by for immediate use.
Q: What is the next level of protection?
A: Our next level of protection is full face gas masks. We offer two basic types. One is our NP2131K mask, which has a full panoramic visor and a speaking diaphragm. The other is our NBC14 mask, which has twin eye pieces. They are both made from neoprene, and have a nose cup, and five point suspension for a secure fit. There is a junior version of the mask with twin eye pieces, the NBC24 for some pre-teens and teenagers. Filter canisters are not included. We recommend our NP8000 canister but other types are available.
Q: What is the next level of protection?
A: For people who want an alternative to a full gas mask, we offer Homeland Hoods. These are quick-don, ready-to-wear with a half-mask, filters and an integrated hood made from either butyl rubber or tychem. These can be worn by adults and by some teenagers.
Q: What is the next level of protection?
A: Our lowest level of protection, absolute minimum effective against low levels of hazards only, is our half-mask dual cartridge respirator, MK32. Use our NP1000K special filter pack.
Q: Can children and babies use masks?
A: No, children and babies cannot use regular gas masks. Protecting babies and small children is a special problem, for several reasons. They do not have the lung capacity of adults, and are not able to breathe through a filtering canister. They have small faces and masks do not seal and contamination will leak into the child’s face. And some children are not able to wear a mask without becoming very frightened.
Q: What can I use to protect babies and small children?
A: We manufacture battery-powered hoods, one for children who can walk, ages 2-12, (our CH14), and one for babies up to two years old, (our CH16) who must be carried. These products have a small electric blower, a small battery, and a specially configured hood. The battery powers the blower, which then pumps air through the filter into a hood. The child breathes filtered air which is brought to her under positive pressure. The child does not have to suck air through the filter, because the blower does the work.
Q: How do I know what size gas mask to order?
A: That depends on whether you want to protect adults or children.
Q: What about adults? What sizes do they need?
A: For full facemasks, it’s one size fits all. They come with adjustable straps. For Homeland Hoods and half-masks, most adults need a medium size. Some big faces may need a large size.
Q: What about children? What size do they need?
A: For babies who need to be carried, use our Baby-Hood, CH16. For children who can walk, up to about age 12, use our Child-Hood, CH14. Some pre-teens and teenagers may be able to wear our junior mask, NBC24, or Homeland Hood.
Q: What is the shelf life of gas masks and filters?
A: Typically, gas masks have a shelf life of up to 15 years and filters up to 10 years.
Q: Is that why old gas masks are suspect?
A: Yes. If you are looking for protection, never buy a gas mask or filter from a surplus supplier. Be careful, because some masks are described as "new" even though they are literally forty or fifty years old. To some people "new" means "never been used" while to others it means "recent in origin." A fifty-year old mask may never have been used, but it is certainly not recent in origin. By the way, our very name, Neoterik, is a word that means recent in origin.
Q: What happens to old gas masks?
A: They may well be offered for sale to the general public. For example, in Israel, the people there can trade in old masks that have exceeded their shelf life and get new ones. Filters are exchanged for new ones when they exceed their shelf life. If a mask or a filter is used, it is exchanged for a new one. Many of the older, used and obsolete Israeli masks are being sold on the Internet and through military surplus outlets to unsuspecting Americans. The same thing happens with aged military masks from different countries around the world. These masks can be sold as surplus items, and America is a favored outlet because the purchase is made in those very desirable USA dollars. Old military masks from Russia, China, Germany , Israel and other sources are readily available, often at very low cost. Of course, all these items have exceeded their useful life. We recommend that you always ask three fundamental questions before you buy any gas mask.
Q: What are the three fundamental questions I should ask before I buy a gas mask?
A: When you buy any mask, make sure you ask these three fundamental questions.
First, when was this mask factory tested?
Second, when was this filter manufactured?
Third, what will this filter protect against?
Always buy a mask that has been factory tested and packaged so that the date of test is clearly displayed. Never buy an old filter. Always make sure the filter will protect against the hazards of concern. Out-of-date filters are useless. Old gas masks, even if they really have never been used, have probably lost their integrity. Without factory testing, they are useless. They are sold very cheaply because there is no guarantee that they will protect you from nuclear, biological or chemical agents.
Q: My local army/navy surplus store sells gas masks. I can also find some very cheap on the internet. They told me that their masks would protect me from biological or chemical agents. Is that true?
A: Probably not. Ask the three fundamental questions we discussed above. Many gas masks sold in surplus stores are old and do not have functional filters. When was this mask factory tested? Many of these masks are made of old rubber that is beginning to crack. If you can, pick up the mask and stretch the straps between your fingers. If small cracks are visible, the mask is not a good risk. When was this filter manufactured? Filters have a limited shelf life. If they are ten years old, they will not protect you. What will this filter protect against? Who has the test results? Ask these questions and judge the professionalism of the product by the answers you get. If you have a mask and filter that was purchased from a swap meet, gun show or surplus store and is not in its original packaging, assume it is useless.
Q: How long will filters last in use?
A: This is very difficult to answer, because there are so many possible variations. One main consideration is whether the risk is a biological hazard like anthrax or a vapor like nerve gas.
Q: What if it is biological, like anthrax?
A: Then the life of a Neoterik filter will not be a concern. Our filters are designed to accept a very heavy loading of particulate matter without breakthrough. The best guidance is that our filter will last for months. However, be sure the change the filter after it has been used.
Q: What if the hazard is a gas?
A: Again, all we give is general guidance, because the life of the filter will be affected by how much gas is in the air, what kind of gas it is, and how many different gases are present. A good general rule may be to expect the filters to last up to ten hours. However, if concentrations of a deadly toxin are extremely high, it is possible that each filter will only last ten minutes. It is highly advisable that when you purchase a mask, you purchase a realistic supply of filters as well.
Q: What if the hazard is a combination of both biological agents and a gas?
A: When we are providing protection against terrorist substances or the consequences of chemical accidents of some kind, the gas filtering part of our filter will always be used up first. For the likely duration, follow the same advice as we offer for protection against a gas.
Q: Should I replace the filter after I have used it?
A. Yes. It is acceptable to practice with the filter in clean air, but afterwards you must replace the sealing caps or put the filters back into the storage pouch, whichever is applicable. When the filter is used in earnest, replace it as soon as possible. Do not put a used filter into storage.