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Gas masks – A Pre-emptive Measure to Combat Terrorism

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2006 – A full-scale bio-exercise in the Pentagon parking lot today tested how the Pentagon police, in partnership with local emergency services, would respond to a biological attack at the military headquarters.

Chemical and biological weapons are some of the most dangerous chemicals and diseases known to man. In modern times, these weapons are at the forefront of terrorist and military threats to our safety.

Emergency preparedness is the best pro-active and a defensive approach for all the citizens of the United States to combat future terrorist attacks. The recent audio tape released by Al-Qaeda, warning more terrorist attacks inside the United States prompts us to take a pre-emptive measure of safeguarding ourselves by procuring safety equipment like gas masks. This message is not to deliver fear but to alert everyone to take action to keep yourselves safe.

Facts about Chemical Weapons & Biological Weapons

  • Biological weapon is defined as a micro-organism that causes infectious disease. However any action which reduces the ability of a population to resist infection constitutes a form of biological warfare.
  • Among weapons of mass destruction, biological weapons are more destructive than chemical weapons, in certain circumstances, biological weapons can be as devastating as nuclear ones—a few kilograms of anthrax can kill as many people as a Hiroshima-size nuclear weapon.
  • First used in World War I, chemical weapons drew from existing industrial chemicals (chlorine, phosgene).
  • The Chemical Weapons Convention was ratified by more than 160 nations in 1997 with the goal of eliminating state production, storage, and use.
  • The 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway by the cult Aum Shinrikyo proves that fabrication and use of chemical weapons by non-state groups is possible. Twelve people died and more than 5,000 were injured.
  • Mustard gas was used in chemical warfare and was made in large amounts during World Wars I and II. It was reportedly used in the Iran-Iraq war in 1984-1988. It's presently used in the United States for research purposes.
  • Mustard gas has been a favorite chemical weapon in wars because it can be fairly easily delivered via conventional bombs, rockets and artillery shells and because mustard gas contamination can render an area unusable by enemy forces.

What is a Gas Mask?

A gas mask is a mask worn on the face to protect the body from airborne pollutants and toxins. The mask may cover the eyes and other vulnerable soft tissues of the face, and will always form a sealed cover over the nose and mouth.

The advantage of a gas mask over other breathing devices is that it does not require the user to carry an air supply.

In the early days of World War I the Canadian Army made field expedient gas masks to protect themselves from the deadly chlorine gas used by the Germans by urinating on rags and holding them to their faces.

How Gas mask Filters Work?

Any respirator that you are likely to use will have a filter that purifies the air you breathe. How does the filter remove poisonous chemicals and deadly bacteria from the air?

Any air filter can use one (or more) of three different techniques to purify air:

  • Particle filtration
  • Chemical absorption or adsorption
  • Chemical reaction to neutralize a chemical

A typical disposable filter cartridge for a respirator: When you inhale, air flows through the inlet on the left, through a particulate filter, through an activated charcoal filter, through another particulate filter (to trap charcoal dust) and through the outlet on the right into the mask. When the particulate filter clogs or the activated charcoal becomes saturated, you must replace the cartridge.

Would gas masks be helpful in the event of a bioterrorist attack?

Because biological or chemical attacks are unlikely to be announced, military gas masks would have to be worn continuously to be protective. For a mask to be effective, it must fit correctly and be worn correctly. Since the filters and activated carbon discs need to be changing frequently, to have an effective gas mask.

Now, with the threats becoming more and more real every day, one needs to consider what could be done to counter this great danger. To start with, counter terrorist organizations must continue with their information gathering and observations of terrorist organizations.

The first specific step is that precursor chemicals or potential chemical weapons must be better regulated. Then response capabilities must be increased and improved to deal with chemical attacks, this should include an improvement in chemical detection capabilities. Finally, public must be better informed on the subject of chemical attacks, in specific "What to do in an emergency.", “and how to be prepared” with safety equipment.

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