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Do German Gasmasks contain Asbestos?

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I recently managed to get hold of a civil German gas mask for my HJ collection in a very small size for very cheap money at a small military event. Its near complete with only the instructions missing and its in an OK condition (lenses look a bit dirty)

Now my question is, is it dangerous for display in my room? I am definitely not stupid enough to wear it though, I wouldn't even if its filter was empty biggrin.gif

I know nearly all WW2 gas masks had asbestos inside of them and this one may be no exception, but is it safe for me to have on display? (bearing in mind I sleep next to my collection) The filter looks to be ok but there is a slight white powder on the outside of it? I have no idea personally. I did have to attach the filter myself. All though I have head that German ones used charcoal and no asbestos?

Also how should you go about dealing with the asbestos if it is inside of it, or should it be fine how it is, i don't want to replace any of my gasmaks filters as all my ones are matching smile.gif

Do you have any spare instructions for sale for this type Kenny as well?

Thanks
RAF

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It is mainly British and American filters that contain asbestos but other cartridges had them too. To my knowledge the Germans used charcoal.

 

In either case the important thing is never to wear the mask and likely wash up after handling. An asbestos removal firm can have a look for you at the filter, some will even make it safe for a small fee. The IWM seals all their masks to be safe and honestly I'd do the same. IWM gas mask safety

 

I don't think the risk is huge but it is not something I'd hand directly over my bed. If there is any risk, keep it bagged. A historical display is nice, but your health is more important if you want to live into a long age with your collection!

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Thanks for the info Greg, do you know how they go about sealing the filters? I might just remove the filters from display and keep the masks if they pose a possible health risk.

I have had the standard infantry one on display since July without thinking about it, is the charcoal ones dangerous?

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Look in a local directory for asbestos companies and call them asking for a quote to seal a gas mask and see what they can do. I've done some reading around and it does seem the danger is Allied masks and not so much German but why risk it have a professional take a look. WWII stuff is FULL of dangerous stuff, here in Scotland the story is currently about a bay full of radioactive particles because after the war the RAF dumped aircraft there. The reclaimers then set the aircraft on fire and melted them down including the radium used in the dials to see them at night, leaving the beach radioactive till today and a big fight over just how green you will glow from it.

The cheap and cheerless answer is to duct tape the openings and keep it in a sealed bag though.

To my knowledge there is no danger from active charcoal filters. They break down after being opened and are only good for so long. Again though never breath through a filter so old.

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Brilliant, thanks for the info Greg, I have removed both filters from the masks and have put them in some bags for display beside them both until I can find out for sure that they are free from asbestos, if they are then i will put them back on the masks seeing as the charcoal filters are relatively harmless :)

 

And yes I heard about that story, kind of scares me a bit what with amount of shot down or burnt wartime aircraft here in Kent. Makes you think just how dangerous some of it can be.

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Sorry RAF no spare instructions at the moment but will keep an eye out for some for you.We had a chap from one of the universities do some tests for us years ago , he said they were basically safe but never to wear them.I think he said you would near to wear one constantly for years for it to actually harm you.Not sure how accurate his information was.We tend to try to avoid them these days to be on the safe side.

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under new EU laws Kenny it is illegal to sell anything that contains asbestos... including Gas Mask Filters! I think it is an enforcement issue though, Recent Classic & Arms and Armour has a story about kife law and that WWI Trench Knives with knuckle dusters built in are also illegal but you see them on plenty of dealer sites for sale.

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Must admit I did not know Brodie helmets had asbestos in them

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WWI vintate helmets may have an asbestos top pad made of chrysotile asbestos. This can be removed by a licensed contractor and there is no need to destroy the helmet.

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Now that is crazy, who would of thought that helmets would have some also! We was addicted to this stuff. :blink:

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The asbestos in WW1 helmets consisted of a asbestos-backed pad no thicker than a thick piece of paper it was covered by a

wool felt pad and riveted to the top of the helmet then covered in a oilcloth and net liner.

As long as the wool pad is in good shape it should be okay,the small exposure level of the material in the liner isn't going to

cause major problems.

In reality there are probably more items in the home that may cause more long term issues,( probably more junk in the drinking

water than is good for us,not to mention the Cancer and other medical problems that will probably kill us long before a pad in a

WW1 helmet will.

:lol:

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The asbestos in WW1 helmets consisted of a asbestos-backed pad no thicker than a thick piece of paper it was covered by a

wool felt pad and riveted to the top of the helmet then covered in a oilcloth and net liner.

As long as the wool pad is in good shape it should be okay,the small exposure level of the material in the liner isn't going to

cause major problems.

In reality there are probably more items in the home that may cause more long term issues,( probably more junk in the drinking

water than is good for us,not to mention the Cancer and other medical problems that will probably kill us long before a pad in a

WW1 helmet will.

:lol:

Oh agreed, but tell that to the dear public who instead want to jump up and down ont he dangers of collecting and how it is evil and will kill you as the teachers cart bin loads of items that are safe or can be made safe to the rubbish heap.... ok rant over... I'm off to play with my mobile and probably get radiated by it :P

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Here's the British Service Respirator I've now got to add to the Home Front collection .post-3823-0-76619900-1403815967_thumb.jpgpost-3823-0-27315200-1403816000_thumb.jpgpost-3823-0-21165800-1403816028_thumb.jpgpost-3823-0-23513800-1403816055_thumb.jpg

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Nice Colin, did you get this from us?

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Yes Kenny and the NFS helmet, not sure which to display it with at the moment looks well with both. :)post-3823-0-41339700-1403859422_thumb.jpg

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Sure does Colin, sorry I did not realize it was you on the phone the other day ,the shop was chaos when you phoned , glad you got the fire helmet I remember you saying you were looking for one :thumbsup:

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I've never heard of asbestos in gasmask filters, charcoal, yes . but charcoal is not dangerous! The white powder on the filters is rahter more likely oxidation on zinc or aluminium, as often seen on war badges and many other items due to bad storage, etc.Even zinc coating on iron can oxidise, and then it looks like "snow".

In the old days manoevres were carried out wearing gasmasks, which was very strenuous, all part of the training, there were no bad effects from this, apart from an occasional heart attack, esp. in the DDR army.

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SpmZ17BILI

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regarding gasmask - just added a humoristic film, NVA - there are scenes with manoevres, etc., etc., with "gasmask"

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I've been looking into this again for clarification and apparently German gasmasks do contain asbestos.

 

The German gas mask filters of WW2 do contain Asbestos in the areosole part of the filter. Start from the bottom first mesh then White asbestos (sometimes mistaken as cotton) then more mesh then Charcoal then some more mesh and cotton pad.

 

Why did they put asbestos in gas mask filters?

It has been speculated that the inclusion of asbestos in gas mask filters was in response to the need to combat the warfare agent arsine. Later, the filter carbon was impregnated with silver to neutralize the arsenic agents. Another speculation is that it was added as a particle filter due to how fine asbestos fibres are (however it was later replaced by esparto grass).

 

When was asbestos first put in gas mask filters?

It is unknown but has been speculated to be around the late 1920’s to early 1930’s.

 

When did they stop putting asbestos in gas mask filters?

It is unknown due to different countries stopped at different times, however, it has been speculated that the large majority of countries using the carcinogen had stopped by the late 1970’s.

 

What filters contain asbestos?

It is difficult to tell due to there is not much information, however it has been speculated that most of the filters from the Second World War contain asbestos.

 

If I shake my filter and can hear charcoal than it means my filter does not contain asbestos?

No, filters that contain asbestos still contain charcoal.

 

The British and the Germans used white asbestos the Australians used blue asbestos and the French and the Czech Republic used a type of Fibre board the Russians used white asbestos.The Russians used asbestos all the way until around the 1970's.The British civilian and British civilian duty gas mask both have asbestos at the botom and later had a green arsines filter attached which also had Asbestos in it, later countries would use Silver to filter out arsines. The USA also used Asbestos.

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Anyway, gasmasks were never really needed in WW2, just always on the ready. But no side wanted to use gas, due to the experiences in WW1.

No idea presently what was in filters, never really thought about it. However, the use of masks was vital in WW1, and they certainly saved a lot of lives. Whether they did any harm, no one can tell 100 years later. I don't think there would have been any negative medical reports or records on this.

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apparently they were relatively safe when they were made, the major danger is years later when it starts to deteriorate ,that's when the particles can be inhaled and cause problems.

 

In saying that I also read an account of ladies who made these in the Boots factory in WW2 in Nottingham,that there is a 10% plus fatallity rate associated with the ex-employees of the factory due to the asbestos in the gasmasks.

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Could well be. Damage always occurs later. The only masks I have had are one British WW2 service respirator, several WH mask sets complete, and a WW1 German set all complete and marked to IR 116, from about 1917/18. Many years ago - that was in my teens, I did test a WH gasmask under strenuous conditions, with no negative results, you just tend to gasp for air a bit after removing the mask. Never thought about the filters in those days. However in the 60s and 70s everything was still very "fresh", many items deteriorate in the past 40-50 years if not properly stored.

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Just checked further and it is now illegal to sell gasmasks.

 

The Sale of Gas Masks containing Asbestos is Illegal

according to a Warning issued by the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) and The Asbestos in School Group (AiS) on 22nd October 2013 which states:

Sale and Postage is Illegal


The sale and postage of the masks, filters and bags is illegal if they contain asbestos. Despite this they are regularly traded and posted to customers. Schools and individuals should never attempt to obtain masks by this means.


WWII Gas masks should not be worn as asbestos fibres can be inhaled
$_1.JPG?set_id=2

No gas mask of WWII vintage should ever be worn.

WWII gas masks are potentially dangerous as they can release asbestos fibres. They can also be contaminated with harmful chemicals from previous use in gas drills. In addition some post war gas masks can release asbestos fibres and can be contaminated.


Tests have shown that asbestos fibres can be inhaled by wearing the masks (*1).


Asbestos fibres can also be released from handling the masks, filters or carrying bag.



Image: WWII British Military mask. The filters contain crocidolite asbestos. Masks, filters and carrying bags can be contaminated

Warning
In 2008 the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland issued an urgent warning to all schools and school

boards. Their warning is relevant to all schools throughout the United Kingdom. They stated:


“In order to minimise the risk to pupils and staff in schools where masks are present,
HSENI would instruct that

if any school owns or has been loaned World War II gas masks to be used in displays or during course work in class these should be removed immediately.
They can be stored safely by placing them inside an intact plastic bag and sealing this. This process should be repeated resulting in the gas mask being "double bagged" and sealed. A suitable label is attached with the wording 'Warning contains asbestos'…” (*2)


The local authority should be contacted for advice on how to safely dispose of the masks, filters and bags.


In 2004 the Imperial War Museum had issued the following guidance to their staff (*3):


Most British gas masks of WW2 vintage have asbestos (blue and/or white) as a component in their filters


...Where unsure, it should be assumed that the filters do contain asbestos until proven otherwise
. The filters may, in any case, contain other respiratory irritants.
Thus no gas mask of WW2 vintage should ever be

worn.


…Note: There is a further health and safety issue with gas masks that have been exposed to chemicals eg used in 'live' gas tests and drills. Such gas masks should not be handled and should not go on display. They should be sealed in polyethylene bags (at least two layers) or an airtight inert container. This should be carried out in a fume cupboard, whilst wearing latex or nitrile gloves and a lab coat. The gloves should be disposed of and the lab coat disposed of/laundered after use. The enclosures should be labelled to indicate that they contain materials that are potentially hazardous and should not be opened. Any further enclosures that they are placed into, eg boxes, should be appropriate labelled as described above.


Gas masks coming from unknown sources, where it is impossible to identify whether the gas mask has been exposed to chemicals, should be treated as if they have.
” (*4)


$_1.JPG?set_id=2
Image: WWII British adult civilian mask. Filters normally contain chrysotile asbestos. Canvas carrying bags can be contaminated.


In Britain about twenty five million military ‘General Service Respirators (GSR)’ were manufactured between 1935 and 1942 and those produced after 1937 contain crocidolite (blue asbestos). About three million ‘Light respirators (LR)’ were produced after 1942 until about 1965 and some of them can also contain crocidolite. Civilian gas masks produced between about 1937 and 1942 normally contain chrysotile (white asbestos), although some can contain crocidolite. About one hundred and seven million civilian gas masks were produced. These included masks for adults, children and babies. The filters can potentially release asbestos fibres and the masks are potentially contaminated. (*5)


As great, or perhaps a greater risk, comes from handling the masks, their filters or the canvas carrying bags. All the masks are now old and tests have shown that asbestos fibres can be released from the filters, particularly when they are split or worn. This will contaminate the people handling the equipment, the surrounding area and also the canvas carrying bags. If the bags are contaminated then the mask will be as well.


Gas masks from other countries can also contain asbestos and the same precautions should be taken.


$_1.JPG?set_id=2
Image: WWII British child and baby gas masks. Filters normally contain chrysotile but can contain crocidolite asbestos.

Risks
There is no threshold exposure to asbestos below which there is no risk.
(*6)


Chrysotile can cause cancer, and crocidolite is up to five hundred times more likely to cause mesothelioma.
(*7)


Children are more at risk from asbestos exposure than adults. It is estimated that the lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma is about five times greater for a five year old child than it is for an adult aged thirty, and about four times greater for a ten year old child. (*8)


Two series of tests on military masks simulated the levels inhaled by the wearer. Both tests found similar levels, the first up to 0.01 f/ml (10,000 fibres in a cubic metre of air), and the second up to 0.009f/ml (9,000 fibres in a cubic metre of air. (*9) Depending on their activity a person would inhale about 1,500 fibres in a ten minute period. The contaminated bags had up to 2,000 crocidolite fibres in a centimetre square.(*10) The levels are unsafe, particularly for children.

Sealing and removal of asbestos The Imperial War Museum advice for their staff is that the filters can be sealed or the asbestos can be removed. This must only be carried out by professional, qualified asbestos consultants and must never be attempted by a school. If any masks are offered to the school that have been made ‘safe’ then the school should ensure that documentary evidence proves that this has been performed by a professional organisation.

Even then the masks must never be worn.

Sale and postage is illegal
The sale and postage of the masks, filters and bags is illegal if they contain asbestos. Despite this they are regularly traded and posted to customers. Schools and individuals should never attempt to obtain masks by this means.

Action points for schools
  • No WWII gas mask should ever be worn.
  • If any school owns or has been loaned World War II gas masks to be used in displays or during course work in class these should be removed immediately.
  • They can be stored safely by placing them inside a heavyweight polythene bag and sealing it by folding the neck over and firmly taping it. This should then be placed inside a second polythene bag and again sealed. A label should be firmly attached with the wording 'Warning contains asbestos.' (*11)
  • If a mask has been loaned to the school then return it to the owner in the double polythene bags.
  • Ensure the warning label is attached and also include this guidance.
  • Or contact the local council and ask how to dispose of the mask.
  • It is illegal to post asbestos containing materials.
  • Filter canisters can be professionally sealed but as damage can break the seal it is strongly recommended that they are not handled but are disconnected from the mask. Ensure that there is documentary evidence that the sealing has been performed by a professional organisation.
  • The asbestos can be professionally removed from the canisters. If that has been done then again ensure that there is documentary evidence that it has been performed by a professional organisation. (Most local authorities will have lists of licensed removal contractors.) (*12)
  • Even if the masks have been made ‘safe’ they should not be worn.
  • Canvas carrying bags cannot be cleaned and should be treated as contaminated by asbestos fibres. They should not be handled.
  • Replica masks are available and can be used without any restrictions.
$_1.JPG?set_id=2
Image: Asbestos warning label to be clearly displayed on double polythene bags

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Kokolores & Hanebüchen. If in doubt about German gasmasks, simply keep them in their tins. There is no particular need to display the mask, as they were not worn anyway, only carried, it is therefore sufficient to display the tin properly closed. Simply a matter of common sense without panic.

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