While most of us want to know how we can use gas masks for protection against airborne viruses, pollutants, particles and contaminants, we rarely pay attention to the materials used in order to manufacture a gas mask in the first place.
Gas masks are made of a variety of different materials, which are used in several different ways depending on the usage intention of the gas mask. For example, there are other materials used for gas masks which will serve a purpose for the military, and different types of materials for gas masks intended for industrial use.
Gas masks for industrial use:
Gas masks for military use:
In addition to the usage intention, there are also several different styles of gas masks available in the market. For instance, someone can choose between full-face gas masks (that cover the entire face), and half-face gas masks, that cover the mouth and nose only. It all depends on how you are going to use the mask, and the level of protection you need.
ALSO READ: How to Clean a Gas Mask
What are gas masks made of?
In order to have a better understanding the way that gas masks are manufactured today, we need to look into the different parts of a gas mask separately, and analyze each one’s unique structure. There are 4 main gas mask parts, which are made of several different materials:
The face cover is the largest piece of a gas mask, which holds all the other pieces together. Full face gas masks have bigger face covers than half face gas masks as it is expected, and they are used in order to protect the face of the user from various factors such as heat and debris.
Gas mask manufacturers use the face cover as the area that provides a fully protective seal against gases and fumes. In order to release gases out of the mask without letting them in, most gas masks use exhalation valves which are fit for the job.
Silicon rubber is the most common material used to make a gas mask face cover. The reason why, is because silicon rubber is highly resistant to extreme temperatures which are very common when intended for industrial use, and it has high levels of flexibility in order to fit the head of the user.
The filter cartridge is probably the most important part of a gas mask. It filters the contaminated or polluted air, purifies it and transfers it to the mouth piece, where it can be safely inhaled by the user of the gas mask without causing danger to the lungs.
The filter cartridge is mainly a canister which is made of plastic as a rule of thumb. The size of the canister is about 4 inches or around 10 centimeters. On the other hand, the depth of the canister is not as big, and is usually around 1 inch which is enough to consist of a filtration aid and enough rough room to filter and purify the air.
In order to filter the air, there are used various filters. The most common type of filtering is by using activated carbon. This type of gas mask filtering is most commonly used in order to manufacture gas masks, because of the fact that carbon has the ability to almost completely adsorb the largest amount of gases and fumes in comparison to other materials.
The main advantage of activated carbon is its ability to adsorb effectively organic gases. This makes it one of the most efficient way to protect the user of the gas mask from some of the most hazardous types of vapors, which are used in chemical and biological attacks.
The main material of a filter cartridge is styrene plastic, which is widely used to manufacture the majority of gas masks today. In order to create the cartridge, there are used two separate round pieces of metal, which are pressed and stuck together.
Lastly, in order to enhance the effectiveness of the filtering and the adsorption, manufacturers tend to affect chemically the carbon, creating the activated carbon. The level of enhancement and the levels of effectiveness depends solely on the intended use of the gas mask.
The straps of a gas mask are another piece of this particular head gear, which is of major importance. Like the main part of the mask, the face cover, they are usually made of silicon rubber which is widely used by the manufacturing companies because of its stability and high resistance.
The job of the straps, is to hold the mask steady around the head of the user. Furthermore, additional (usually smaller-sized) rubber straps are added to the gas mask, which are used to stabilize the neck as well as the head.
The attachment of the straps is achieved with the help of metal rivets. The metal rivets are responsible for the stability levels of the gas mask, and this is why they are locked tightly on the mask compared to the straps, which are looser for more flexibility.
ALSO READ: What Gas Mask Does The US Military Use
Finally, the last (but equally important for the effectiveness of the gas mask) part is the eye pieces. The eye pieces, are essentially the lens (or lenses) of the gas mask, and they are there to provide the necessary protection from heat, debris and gases that may harm the eyes.
The eye pieces tend to be waterproof, resistant to heat and high temperatures, or even provide shade for certain levels of light to prevent flashes, similarly to welding helmets. The material used to create the eyepieces, is polycarbonate plastic.
After the face piece and the filter cartridges are complete, the eye pieces are the last parts of the gas mask (before the straps of course) that are used to assembly the mask.
To sum up, gas masks are made of several different materials, which are used all together in order to create a highly protective piece of headgear. Different parts of the gas mask (or a respirator) require different process when it comes to manufacturing.
The filtering and the sealing of the gas mask depends on the usage intention of the mask, and it is treated accordingly. Knowing what are gas masks made of, will help you learn how to take full advantage of your gas mask, and do a better job protecting yourself.