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New Army Respiratory Protective Mask

BERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Oct. 20, 2015) — Army researchers have
developed a simple, comfortable, wrap-style respiratory protective mask for
protection against riot control agents called the Integrated Respiratory and Eye
Protective Scarf or IREPS and the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center,
also known as ECBC, is making it as a simple as putting on a surgical mask.

ECBC researchers Dave Caretti, Dan Barker and Doug Wilke developed the idea for
the solution from specialized operators, who expressed a need for a protective mask
to protect against riot control agents such as 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, also
known as CS, or tear gas.

The operators also wanted a mask that could protect users who have beards, or
must operate with other unique head-borne equipment.

Currently, users wear a traditional full general protective mask when disseminating
riot agents. This mask is a hard material and the user must remove any existing
equipment on their face to put it on. This process can take time that operators might
not have during emergency situations.

“The solution we envisioned would easily integrate with the user’s helmet,
communications headphones and protective eyewear, so that it could provide a
simple solution for all users,” Caretti said.

Members of law enforcement, who use CS and other riot control agents, could also
use this type of mask when necessary and avoid wasting time with a traditional
full-face piece respirator that requires the removal of protective helmets and other
head-borne items.

The filter component passed the National Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health, or NIOSH, standards for protection from a CS riot control agent and
demonstrated a filtration capacity of up to 140 minutes.

“We got so much done. We collected data on the media; the wrap design worked
well for the user gear; we got the protection levels above standards from NIOSH.
The last thing we had to do was integrate IREPS with the operator’s eyewear,”
Caretti said.

Eyes are very sensitive, so protecting them is a critical part of any protective mask.
Finding a way to integrate eyewear with the rest of IREPS was the crucial last step.

“You have to protect eyes and oral nasal cavity, and we ended up with several
concepts on paper for how to do so,” Caretti said. “Initially, we believed that
modifications to ballistic protective goggles would be an option for protecting the
eyes from CS, but discovered that many times, users don’t wear such goggles. They
instead wear high-quality sunglasses that might resemble something like Oakley

In an attempt to create a solution that could adapt to a sunglass style, the team
looked at putting gaskets similar to what you might find on swim goggles on the
sunglasses, which would then seal around the eyes to the face.

While the preliminary concept for the eye protection seemed like it could work with
some modifications to minimize lens fogging, the user community still needs to
determine if such an approach is something that could truly be functional.
Unfortunately, the one year program came to a close before the team could fabricate
prototypes for that final step.

Caretti, Barker and Wilke are still engaged with the user, who is still interested in the
prospect of a more flexible, beard-friendly protective mask.

“We got as far as we could in the amount of time that we were given, and we’re very
happy with the progress that we’ve made. But we really would like to see this all the
way through to a final system. Right now, we have IREPS without the ‘E,’ we need
that ‘E’ to make this something that can truly make a difference to users,” Barker
said. “This is something the operators want.”