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Junk Science, Do-It-Yourself -- Gas Mask
(Note to my readers: I'll be following this with a Chem-Bio
Protection system for small children, and a Do-it-yourself chem-bio
shelter... only here at Sierra Times!--WH)
With the current state of affairs, and the repeated warnings by high-level Government Officials of possible, and even probable, Bio-Chemical Attacks on America, it seems to be time to apply the 'Real American Junk Science" philosophy to personal protection, and, based on the constant references in the news media to the demand for gas masks that can no longer be purchased, that item won first place in the list.
The strange looking girl in the photo above is my Daughter, DaniJo, and she is wearing a dual-filtered homemade gas mask that will, hopefully, afford her some protection in the event our small town becomes the target of a bio-chem attack. The two-stage filter is made of plastic bottles containing various filter materials, connected together by medical-grade clear neoprene tubing, and mated to a standard oxygen nose-mouth face mask. The eyepiece started out as an off-the-shelf eye-protector, and the housing is nothing more than a section of automotive inner-tube into which all of the relevant pieces have been secured with staples and rubber cement.
Air is drawn into the filter bottles through a length of 3/8 inch copper tubing which extends through the bottle's cap and all the way to the bottom. The end is crimped so that air comes out of it in small streams. The bottle contains rubbing alcohol, and air drawn through it rises through the alcohol in tiny bubbles, hopefully killing any germs along the way. Also attached to the cap of the bottle, right beside the copper tubing, is one end of a length of our medical-grade tubing, and the air, which has bubbled up above the level of the alcohol, is now drawn through it to the second stage filter.
In this smaller filter bottle, the incoming tube also rests on the bottom, but it is covered with a large wadding of HEPA filter material removed from a HEPA vacuum cleaner bag. It is then covered with four ounces of powdered activated charcoal, which is in turn sealed into place with a stuffing of more HEPA material. The piece of tubing seen protruding from the side of the mouthpiece and wrapping around the mask is connected to the air exhaust valve, a small automotive one-way valve (called a PCV valve) that allows the air you exhale to vent from the filter system without building up positive pressure in the bottle. When you inhale, the small amount of vacuum you apply to the filters and lines causes the valve to close, preventing any outside air from returning to the mask. Since the exhaust-valve tubing is six inches long, any air in the tubing that might get sucked in before the ball can close is only air that you have already filtered and breathed out, and therefore presents no danger. A second PCV valve is placed in the line from the filters to the mask, but reversed, so that it opens when you breathe in and closes when you breathe out.
Powdered Activated Charcoal is well known as the world's most effective absorbent. Activated Charcoal is like a magnetic sponge, that will adsorb any living or nonliving substance that has the opposite electrical charge. It is made by cremating hardwood logs or coconut shells. The resulting Charcoal is then steamed, producing microscopic tunnels. Lastly, it is processed to produce sizes from blocks down to powder. Different sizes of the resulting Activated Charcoal are used for different purposes. When any gases or liquids pass by &/or through the Activated Charcoal, the substances as mentioned before will be attracted to it's surface. Activated Charcoal can adsorb over 4,000 chemicals including drugs, poisons, toxins, and heavy metals, plus pathogens! It is used in Air and Water filters all around the world.
HEPA filtration technology was developed by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission to remove airborne radioactive particles. In order to be considered true HEPA filter it must be capable of removing 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns. Today HEPA filter is used in such places as hospitals and manufactures' clean rooms where clean air is absolutely vital. ALL known bacteria will die when trapped in the HEPA filters, for after passing through the alcohol and Activated Charcoal elements, there is no moisture available to facilitate their growth, and they lose their own internal moisture rapidly.
This mask, as ridiculous as it looks, should be functional in protecting you against most bio-chemical attacks we may face, and here's why:
BIO ATTACKS: Because biological toxins are not volatile, as are chemical agents, and with rare exceptions, do not directly affect the skin, an aggressor would have to present toxins to target populations in the form of respirable aerosols, which allow contact with the more vulnerable inner surfaces of the lung. This, fortunately, makes even our homemade gas mask potentially effective against such a threat, since it will absorb/trap particles as small as 0.3 microns. Almost all biological attack threats are made up of aerosol particles between 0.5 and 5 microns in diameter.
ATTACKS: During an attack with Chemical agents, the respiratory system
must be protected against aerosols and gases in the air (at the same time,
it's a good idea to protect the rest of the body against direct contact
with chemical agents in the form of liquid or solid particles). In
addition, the respiratory system must be protected against evaporating
Take a look:
The seams I coated with a liberal application of Shoe Goo, to
ensure that they won't leak or come apart… if you've ever used that stuff,
you'll know what I mean! And, by the way… eye protectors have many little
air holes around their housings… be sure to plug them all with a layer of
Make sure the
copper tubing is clean, and push it through one of the holes in the cap so
that it extends all the way to the bottom. It's best if you can bend the
end so that the opening cannot push against he bottom of the bottle, then
use pliers to crimp the end slightly… this will cause the air that comes
through it to break up into small bubbles in the alcohol. Next, cut the
oxy-bottle-connector from the clear neoprene hose that came with your
oxygen mask, and push the new end through the other hole in the cap, but
only a short distance, say about an inch or two. This end must always
remain above the level of the alcohol in the bottle, and the bottle must
always remain upright. Seal the tubes into the cap with lots of Shoe
take the rest of your HEPA material and pack it into the bottle. It
doesn't matter if it gets pretty crumpled… you want as much surface area
exposed to the air coming through it as you can get! Once it's packed in,
put the cap on and put a bead of Shoe Goo around the seam of the cap. Take
the end of the neoprene hose that is now left hanging from your mask, cut
off a six-inch length and lay it aside, then push the remaining end
through the last hole in the cap, only about an inch, and secure both
hoses in place in their holes with more Goo!
Now, all that's left is to add the check valves, and hook it all up! This is a little tricky, so I'll go into heavy detail:
On each side of your oxygen mask, there are some holes arranged in about a quarter-inch circle… drill or punch through one or two of them on one side, until you have a 3/8 inch hole, then use Shoe Goo to close up all of the others, on both sides. Take the six-inch length of tubing you laid aside a few moments ago, and push it into the hole in the mask, then secure it with Shoe Goo, and use more Goo to glue it alongside the mask so that it curves upward around towards the ear. Now, grab on of the PCV valves and look at the arrow on the side of it to see which way it allows air to flow. You want to attach it to the hose so that it allows air to come I from the hose, but not go back in… in other words, the arrow should point AWAY from the hose! Seal the connection with Shoe Goo!
The final step is to connect the main filter line to the mask, and make sure that any holes in the connector (some have them) are sealed with Goo, and then cut the line about four inches below the mask, and get your other PCV valve. This time, you want the arrow to point TOWARDS THE MASK… this will allow air to come in from the filters, but will not let your exhales go back into the filter bottles. Instead, this will force your exhaled breath to exit the mask through the exhaust valve that we put alongside the mask itself. Put the valve in place, then seal both ends of it to the hoses with Goo to make sure you don't have a leak.
Putting the mask on is a little tricky, and you need to practice until you can get it on and tightly in place in about four or five seconds. Just pull the mask over your head, like a ski mask, but pull gently on the front of it and firmly on the back until it sits snugly in place and lines up on your eyes and mouth. Adjust it for as much comfort as you can manage… remember, it's part of an inner tube and may be a little tight. This can be relieved partly by cutting away part of the back of the mask, making a hole that the back of your head can protrude into. If it's still too tight, I'd suggest getting a bigger inner tube and start again… I would never cut the back open and try to make straps work on it.
Well, that's about it… You now have a gas mask that costs little, and while it may not be pretty, it will give you a lot better chance of staying alive than you'll have without one.
I'm making these for my whole family, and am working on a more portable design. If you have any questions, feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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