The gas mask is a mask used to protect the user from inhaling airborne pollutants and toxic gases. The mask forms a sealed cover over the nose and mouth, but may also cover the eyes and other vulnerable soft tissues of the face. Some gas masks are also respirators, though the word gas mask is often used to refer to military equipment. Sometimes gas mask used to prevent the intrusion of toxic gases or particulate matter in the air.
Airborne toxic materials may be gaseous (for example, sulfur mustard and chlorine gas) or particulates (such as biological agents). Many gas masks include protection from both types. Gas masks are used in construction to protect against welding fumes, in demolition to protect against asbestos or other hazardous particles, and in the chemical industry when handling hazardous materials, as in making repairs to leaking equipment or cleaning up after spills; workers are usually issued gas masks as a precaution against leaks. Aside from serving their functional purposes, gas masks are also used as emblems in industrial music, with the most notable example, the subgenre of drum and bass called neurofunk.
Gas masks have a limited useful lifespan that is related to the absorbent capacity of the filter. Once the filter has been saturated with hazardous chemicals, it ceases to provide protection and the user may be injured. Most gas masks use sealing caps over the air intake to prevent the filter from degrading before use, but the protective abilities also degrade as the filter ages or if it is exposed to moisture and heat.
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