The report states: 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. Asbestos fibres can also be released from handling the masks, filters or carrying bag.
The committee offers this checklist of guidance:-
- 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.'
- 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.)
- 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.