This article is about a concept, not a mask.
This article has been written about something that is not a specific model of mask, but a concept relating to CBRN warfare or the engineering behind gas masks.
Gas masks were originally made to defend against chemical agents, as should you already know. In the interests of clarifying things to those who wish to learn, this page will attempt to dispel misconceptions about chemical (biological, nuclear, and radiological threats are not included in the interests of length) weapons and chemical attacks.
Types of Chemical AgentsEdit
First and foremost, it is important to note the different kinds of chemical agents that can be used for a chemical attack.
These are: Blister, Nerve, Choking and Incapacitating agents.
Blister agents, including the widely-known Mustard Gas, were used rather extensively in World War One. Other blister agents, such as Lewisite, are also potential agents for chemical attack. These agents cause large blisters and severe chemical burns. Inhaling these agents causes severe damage to the lungs and throat. In order to get full protection from these agents, one must wear protective clothing or use a 'gas cape' as well as a gas mask, so that the agent does not come in contact with the eyes or skin, and is not inhaled.
Nerve agents were originally invented by German scientists during World War Two. These agents are classified as 'G' series and 'V' series. The 'G' series agents were those invented during WWII, and includes Tabun, Sarin, Soman, and the more obscure Cyclosarin. The 'V' series agents are much more toxic, and include such agents as VX. It is important to note that while these agents do not produce obvious damage upon contact with the skin, these agents will still be lethal when absorbed through the skin. As such, one must wear protective clothing as well as a gas mask.
Choking and Incapacitating agentsEdit
Contrary to what one might assume,CS a.k.a. 'Tear Gas' does not fall into either of these categories (it is a non-lethal Irritant Agent). The category of choking agents is meant for agents of war designed to cause serious injury or death, such as phosgene. Incapacitating agents, while not designed to kill, are designed to render its victims completely helpless, often for days at a time. Incapacitating agents include BZ gas, which causes hallucination and confusion for days at a time- a rough allegory would be 'weaponized LSD' in that while similar to LSD in causing hallucination, the experience is universally unpleasant and severely debilitating.
Methods of dissemenation for Chemical AgentsEdit
In many cases, the use of the word 'gas' in application to chemical agents is a misnomer. Many chemical agents are used in the form of a fine powder, a liquid, a vapor, or an aerosol. Depending on the intended effects of the agent and the type of agent used, different forms of the agent can be used. Very rarely is a Chemical Agent actually used in gas form.
Protection from Chemical AgentsEdit
It is a common misconception that wearing a gas mask ensures full protection. As stated previously, a majority of chemical agents are easily lethal when absorbed through the skin. As such, protective clothing must be worn. This protective clothing can be in two forms- either it is impregnated with activated charcoal so that the agents are neutralized and absorbed by the garment, or it is sealed and rubberized so that liquids, vapors, and powders cannot touch the wearer's skin. The latter is also more effective at dealing with radioactive fallout and biological agents, as the wearer can be decontaminated while still wearing the protective clothing.
Another issue is that of decontamination. Even when the main source of the chemical agent is gone, be it in liquid, vapor, or powder form, those who were in the exposed area will still have chemical agents on their clothing. In order to prevent these agents from being hazardous when the protective clothing is removed, one must decontaminate all items on his or her person exposed to the agent. This is usually done with a chemical powder that will neutralize or remove any agents. Failure to properly decontaminate before removing protective clothing can result in fatal exposure.