Asbestos in Gas Masks

We all know the benefits that a prop may bring to a teacher in a history lesson to aid students with the learning process as they get to physically see and feel the item themselves to get a better understanding of what the teacher is explaining. But when the subject is WWII this could be a potentially hazardous subject to both students and teachers, especially if the item of that period is a WWII Mask.

Why would a WWII Gas Mask be dangerous?

WWII gas masks are potentially dangerous as they can contain and 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. Asbestos fibres can also be released from handling the masks, filters or carrying bag.

So why use asbestos in gas masks?

After the widespread use of poison gas in the Great War it was expected that gas would also be a major factor in WWII so civilians as well as military personnel were provided with gas masks.

How many gas masks were produced and what types of asbestos were used?

It is difficult to put an exact number on how many of these asbestos containing gas masks were manufactured but to put it in perspective one company in Blackburn, Lancashire had a contract from the government in 1936 to make 70 million and production continued throughout the war.

There were two main types of asbestos used during the manufacture of these gas masks: Chrysotile (white asbestos) for civilian respirators and Crocidolite (blue asbestos) for those equipping the armed forces. The health risks associated with these masks only came to light post-war when factory workers making the masks started showing abnormally high numbers of deaths from cancer.

Why is asbestos dangerous?

The Health & Safety Executive website warns: “Breathing in air containing asbestos fibres can lead to asbestos-related diseases, mainly cancers of the lungs and chest lining. Asbestos is only a risk to health if asbestos fibres are released into the air and breathed in. Past exposure to asbestos currently kills around 4,000 people a year in Great Britain. This number is expected to go on rising at least until 2016.

There is no cure for asbestos-related diseases. There is usually a long delay between first exposure to asbestos and the onset of disease. This can vary from 15 to 60 years.”

What should a school or a collector do if they own one of these Asbestos containing Gas Masks?

The local authority should be contacted for advice on how to safely dispose of the masks, filters and the canvas bags. In 2004 the Imperial War Museum had issued the following guidance to their staff:

“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.

Lung Cancer Symptoms: How Do You Know If You Have Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is a typical health condition that causes an uncontrolled growth of abnormal or cancerous cells in one/both the lungs. It primarily affects the cells that line the air passages. The cancerous cells multiply rapidly and form tumours. When the tumours spread to a wide area, they start undermining the lung’s ability to provide blood and oxygen. There are majorly two types of lung cancer – Primary and Secondary. The first one begins in the lungs while the second one originates somewhere else in the body, metastasizes and reaches the lungs. The symptoms are not noticeable in the initial stage of the disease. Listed here are some of the early symptoms that may help you to perform an early screening to minimize the fatal consequences –

  1. A cough that won’t quit – A cough that occurs due to cold or respiratory infection and goes away in a week or two. However, the cough that persists longer than 2 months can be one of the common lung cancer symptoms that you mustn’t avoid. Whether it is dry or produces mucus, it is highly suggested to get a test done at the earliest.
  2. Changes in the cough – Any major changes while coughing should be paid attention to. If the cough becomes chronic in nature, deeper or sounds hoarse or if you are coughing up blood, it is suggested to immediately visit a doctor.
  3. Severe pain in the Chest – Along with coughing, one of the major lung cancer symptoms include pain in the chest, shoulders and back. Consult your doctor, if the pain is sharp, constant, dull or intermittent in nature. Chronic chest pain may result in enlargement of the lymph nodes or metastasis to the chest wall. This condition is known as Pleura.
  4. Breathing Changes – Shortness of breath or breathlessness can also be a possible symptom of Lung cancer. The tumours tend to block the air passage of the lungs. This causes breathing problems such as shortness of breath or breathlessness. Make a point of noticing this major change along with other above-mentioned symptoms and consult the doctor at the earliest.
  5. Sudden or Excessive Weight Loss – Weight loss can occur due to a plethora of reasons. One of them is Lung Cancer. An unexplained weight loss of 10 to 15 kgs can be associated with major cancer problems. It is one of the most common early lung cancer symptoms that you must not ignore or avoid!
  6. Pain in Bones – Secondary symptoms may cause pain in bones especially pain in the lower back. Sometimes, it becomes difficult to differentiate between bone and muscle pain. Bone pain mainly occurs at night and increases with movement.
  7. Excessive Headache – Though very uncommon in nature, but in extreme cases, excessive headache may related to lung cancer. The tumor present in the lungs may create pressure in the Superior Vena Cava. It is a type of large vein that moves the blood from upper body to the heart. This pressure can, in rare cases, trigger headaches.

Mesothelioma Treatment

Like all other types of cancer, mesothelioma is incurable. Although doctors and scientists have made a great deal of progress for diagnosing and treating these malignancies, there is still no current way to completely get rid of it.

When a group of cells mutates uncontrollably and starts invading and killing healthy cells, this is called cancer. In certain areas of the body where cells reproduce rapidly there tends to be a greater chance of risk because one cancer cell can multiply exponentially in a very quick period of time. Most cancers are caused by external stimuli and mesothelioma is no different. Mesothelioma cancer is caused by exposure to carcinogens such as asbestos.

The affected areas from mesothelioma cancer are the lining of the internal organs in the body. Because of the location of the infected cells, mesothelioma does not respond well to conventional treatments unlike most other forms of cancer. In addition, there are no blatant symptoms of the disease, so doctors cannot properly diagnose the illness until it’s significantly advanced. Because of these factors, the effectiveness of many conventional treatments are limited.

When treating mesothelioma, doctors use several treatment options. Surgery, radiation treatments and chemotherapy have been traditional options for slowing the growth of cancerous cells. Doctors dealing with mesothelioma have to plan an innovative method of attack to combat this condition. New treatments like angiogenesis, photodynamic and gene therapy hold new hope for victims of mesothelioma everywhere. Depending on the state and location of the cancer, doctors will choose the best course of action for the circumstances. If it’s discovered early enough, doctors can prolong the life of the victim, but sadly cannot cure the disease.