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Halloween Costume Posed Asbestos Risk

A savvy consumer’s professional knowledge of the dangers of asbestos may have saved countless children and teens from being exposed to the deadly toxin, and the potential for being diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease in the future. Steve Dixon is a laboratory technician who works for Dixon Information in South Salt Lake, Utah. As part of his job, Dixon tests items for the presence of asbestos, so when he purchased an advertised Russian GP5 gas mask from a local Army Navy Supply Store, he thought it might be interesting to run a few tests on the item.

Good thing he did. When he tested the authentic soviet-made mask from the 1970s for asbestos, all the bells and whistles in his laboratory went off. There were asbestos fibers in the mask’s filter. Just to be sure, he had the mask tested by four other labs, and all came up with the exact same results, with levels of asbestos measuring in at 7.5 percent.

At the time that the gas mask was originally produced, asbestos was still thought of as an effective filter. The masks were probably created to be stored in bomb shelters and were likely made during the Cold War with the idea of protecting the user from fallout from nuclear radiation, so the idea of being diagnosed with a disease fifty years down the road would have been considered a secondary concern, even if the wearer knew about the dangers of asbestos.

Asbestos is a toxic substance that was once widely used for a number of industrial purposes. It was an inexpensive insulator and effective filter, but was found to be highly toxic and to cause a number of serious medical conditions years after exposure, including mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Today the masks were being advertised as clever Halloween costumes throughout the Salt Lake City area, and according to a representative of the military surplus stores, they sold out quickly.

According to Dixon, the asbestos is specifically found in the mask’s filter, and removal of that piece renders the rest of the mask safe for use.  The Army Navy stores say that they will continue to sell the popular item, but that they will remove the cartridge filter from it in order to make sure that it is completely safe.

As for Dixon and his grandson, he removed the filter and allowed the boy to wear it for the happy holiday.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an experienced blog writer, editor, and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of expertise include health, medical research, and law.

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