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Gas mask warning for schools

Schools are being warned not to use World War gas masks for educational purposes as they could potentially contain asbestos.

The Department for Education has issued a notice stating that HSE "does not think it appropriate for children or teachers to wear or handle a gas mask unless it can be clearly demonstrated that the particular mask does not cotain asbestos".

The alert followed a joint statment from the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) and the Asbestos in School Group (AiS), which said that World War II gas masks (and some post-war gas masks) are potentially dangerous as the masks, filters or carrying bag can release asbestos fibres when handled or worn.

According to the statement, around 25 million military General Service Respirators were manufactured between 1935 and 1942, with those produced after 1937 containing crocidolite (blue asbestos). In addition, some three million Light Respirators were produced after 1942 until about 1965 and these can also contain crocidolite.

The statement also says that the 107 million civilian gas masks produced between about 1937 and 1942 for adults, children and babies normally contain chrysotile (white asbestos), although some can contain crocidolite.

Schools are advised to remove any World War II mask they own or have been loaned immediately and contact the local authority for advice on how to safely dipose of the masks, filters and canvas carrying bags.

Although the sale and postage of gas masks containing asbestos is illegal, HSE recently said that it is investigating a number of complaints that second-hand gas masks have been made available for sale online and at trade fairs specialising in militaria.

Source: Safety Express (RoSPA) - January/February 2014


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