A gas mask is a piece of personal protective equipment that covers the nose, mouth and eyes. It is designed to protect the wearer from airborne toxic gases such as poisonous battlefield chemicals or toxic industrial waste.
While the effect of mask wearing on pulmonary function is well-studied in maximal efforts (graded exercise tests to volitional exhaustion) and during rest1,2,3, effects of mask application on steady state exercise mirroring situations of daily living such as recreational activities, work or physical labour remain less clear. Some studies report increased carbon dioxide concentrations and respiratory fatigue, while others suggest that these changes have no clinical impact5-9. Furthermore, self-report complaints of headache and impaired cognitive performance have also been reported but these findings are based on very few studies with little evidence.
In an attempt to address these issues, a team of senior Air Force personnel developed a lighter, cheaper and more comfortable alternative to the 40-pound chemical protection gear worn by aircrew on C-130 Hercules flights. The new system, called AERPS Ultra, consists of an ordinary military gas mask fitted with an adaptor that allows it to attach to a hose plugged into the aircraft oxygen system and a cap that blocks the flow into one side of the mask. This modification costs only 75 cents per mask, and it can save the Air Force millions of dollars in annual maintenance fees and man hours, according to the senior Airman who led the project.