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Poisonous and Petrifying Portraits of WWII GAS MASKS

There’s no protective device that’s more creepy than WWII gas masks. Years before the USA dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, cementing nuclear warfare as the scariest use of weapons, people were terrified of gas attacks. That’s because poisonous gases like chlorine gas, mustard gas, and phosgene gas killed over ninety thousand people in WWI. Although the Geneva Protocol banned chemical and biological warfare in 1925, which leader really cares about international law when it comes to committing war crimes? Not George Bush Jr.

Anyway, because of the fear that Germany would use chemical warfare during WWII, gas masks with asbestos filters were issued to every British civilian to protect them (while silently killing them as they breathed in the asbestos). The filters contained a minimum of 20% asbestos, with some coming with “extra” filtration using arsenic pre-filters. For years, British people frequently had to use these gas masks to comply with authorities — on the streets, in shelters, at school, and in their homes. Even when they weren’t wearing them, they needed to have them close by, just in case. They were hard to breathe through, so the British government provided a lot of training and drills to help people learn how to wear them and not suffocate. Far from protecting people, these masks are so toxic to human health that today, collectors are recommended to use respirators when handling them. Just another reminder that not everything we’re told is for our own good plays out that way.

Written By

Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation.

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