An emergency device such as an escape mask has a single, critical function. It allows a person working in a normally safe environment sufficient time to escape from suddenly occurring respiratory hazards.
With the introduction of the ILC Dover SCape® CO/CBRN30 escape mask, one of the most significant of potential hazards– carbon monoxide – is now covered, said Doug Durney, global marketing director for ILC Dover.
“When NIOSH developed the standard for air purifying escape respirators beginning in 2002, the primary focus was on chemical warfare agents, toxic industrial materials (TIM’s), and carbon monoxide challenges.” Durney said. “Up to this point, there has been an open checkbox for carbon monoxide that had not been addressed. This is the first product to check the carbon monoxide box as well.”
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued a certificate of approval for the ILC Dover air purifying escape respirator in February 2012 as meeting its carbon monoxide criteria.
Like its SCape CBRN30 predecessor, the new escape mask is also certified as effective against chemical, biological and nuclear threats. Tens of thousands of those masks are presently on standby to protect personnel in government buildings, including many facilities in Washington, D.C.
In an industrial setting, SCape already provides protection from a wide variety of potential threats, ranging from chemical spills to radiation leaks. As for the addition of carbon monoxide, in the month of January alone two U.S. plants reported emergencies requiring treatment for 26 workers. That same month, a carbon monoxide leak at a Chinese steel plant killed one worker and injured 30.
ILC Dover’s track record in the field of innovative protective equipment is extensive, ranging from spacesuits for NASA to the M40 gas mask, used by the U.S. military as its primary protection against chemical, biological agents and radiological fallout.
The SCape requires only a minimal amount of training, said ILC Dover chief engineer Tony McKee.
Unlike gas masks with either a mouthpiece or facepiece, the SCape consists of a clear plastic hood that fits over the head and seals at the neck.
“People often feel uncomfortable about the possibility of using escape masks, since they’re sometimes confining and difficult to fit,” McKee said. “It was reassuring to tell them that even if they panicked when putting on the SCape product, as long as their head makes it through the neck seal and into the hood, it would still protect them.”
“The SCape hood also allows for full communication and does not obstruct the vision of the user,” he said. “People need to be able to identify other people and be identified to reduce panic. The SCape hood allows you to communicate via a phone or a two-way radio and still hear and transmit perfectly.”
Also, the wearer need not discard safety glasses or other important eyewear to make the mask fit.
The custom laminated hood material includes a barrier component that has been tested against chemical warfare agents such as mustard gas and sarin, Durney said. That system level testing was done using a SMARTMAN, short for stimulant agent resistant test manikin.
“SMARTMAN testing is conducted by the U.S. military at Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center in Maryland,” Durney said. “It is an enclosed chamber where the product being tested is fitted onto a head shaped form. Then the chamber is actually filled with gaseous agents.”
Made from zinc, SMARTMAN is cast to simulate the head, neck, shoulders and upper chest of a human. The head features a medium-size anatomically correct surface consisting of dimensional eyes, nose, ears, mouth and chin. Sampling ports, detection systems and exhalation engineering control inside SMARTMAN detect agents reaching the eyes or nose.
“They record any penetration beyond a certain point that would be considered a failure,” Durney said. SCape prevents any such penetration.
Rather than force the user to draw air through a respirator, the SCape employs an integrated blower to maintain positive pressure inside the hood, McKee said. Air passes through a single filter tested by NIOSH against gas/vapor test representative agents (TRAs) including acid and base gases, organic vapor and carbon monoxide. The filter also provides a high efficiency particulate rating of P100, providing filtration of 99.97 percent of airborne particles.
“NIOSH developed the standard to be all inclusive,” McKee said. “The bulk of the biological and nuclear challenges can be met by the SCape filter’s particulate media that filters everything from oily aerosols to airborne particulates that may carry biological toxins or radioactive fallout.”
Expanding the ability of SCape to handle carbon monoxide proved extremely challenging, McKee said.
“We are not really filtering the carbon monoxide but catalyzing it,” he said. “There are only a few filter elements in existence that can catalyze carbon monoxide, converting it to CO2. When the carbon monoxide hits the filter element, it creates heat,” McKee said.
“A negative pressure mask which requires a nosecup would result in breathing this very hot air directly into your lungs. Fortunately, we have a blower that dissipates the heat emitted into the hood, essentially providing cooling that addresses that issue.”
NIOSH has certified the SCape CO/CBRN30 for up to 30 minutes of continuous use, even though its lithium battery has the capacity to power the blower for up to two hours once activated. That activation is automatic once the SCape hood is removed from its packaging.
“On the outer packaging there are four photos that show how to pull it out of the box, pull it over your head and it’s done,” Durney said. “It’s very easy to interpret and really reduces confusion.”
SCape is hermetically packaged inside a foil-based bag for storage over the product’s lifetime. Incremental inspections to check the integrity of the packaging do not require activation of the device.
“There is a clear window in outer fabric storage pouch,” McKee said. “If the hermetic seal has been compromised, the barrier bag inside indicates a puffy appearance.”
The device is certified by NIOSH for a shelf life of five years from the date of manufacture, despite a lithium battery good for 10 years.
“When it comes to certification, they don’t allow you to offer a shelf life of longer than five years when you first release this type of product,” Durney said. “We are allowed to reapply after year four to extend that.”
Of the many thousands of SCape CBRN30 escape masks in use prior to the new SCape® CO/CBRN30, not a single failure has ever been reported, he said.
The new mask will be in production in June and is available for order now. Contact ILC Dover direct for authorized distributor information.
“ILC Dover has a long history of protecting people from extremely dangerous toxins and elements in some of the most demanding environments – including space and the battlefield,” Durney said. “This unsurpassed expertise is leveraged when creating and manufacturing all of our personal protective products.”