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Civil Defense Volunteer
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The following article appeared in Pelastustieto [I've translated it as Rescue which is an approximation, literally it's RescueKnowledge] which is (I quote their website http://www.pelastustieto.fi/site/index.php/in-english): "a trade journal and a joint mouthpiece for the fire and rescue service and civil defence bodies. Its main readership comprises persons working in these sectors and others who need information about the fire and rescue service and civil defence in their line of work.". Language & formatting may be a bit clunky, anyway here goes:

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Rescue 1/2002
The Rescue Services had civil defense filters investigated
Half of the filters were unusable!

Most likely are the majority of the civil defense filters that are stockpiled by fire departments unusable. Opposite of the belief that a correctly stored filter will stay usable they loose with age their ability to protect against hazardous gases and particles.
By the end of last year [2001] the fire chief of the City of Kotka Vesa Parkko ordered an investigation into civil defense filters [hereafter CD-filters] that the regional rescue service department has in store. During a discussion with a representative of a manufacturer of respiratory protection it came up that filters, also CD-filters have a shelf life of a maximum of 10 years. Something which pointed to this was the first Gulf War where some old filters sent to the crisis area had proved to be useless after prolonged storage.

Wrong beliefs?
Before it was believed that correct storage will keep a CD-filter in good condition. The filters in Kotka, as probably just about everywhere, had been inspected visually and by weighing the filters. If the weight had not changed it was presumed that it would be in a usable condition. The regional rescue service department of Kotka sent six CD-filters to Scott Health & Safety Ltd's laboratory for inspection that were made in 1965, 1972 and 1982. Their general worthiness and particulate filtering ability was to be tested. The sample represent hundreds of filters acquired during said decades. By the end of the 1990's the City of Kotka's Fire Department had purchased one thousand new Russian made full face masks and filters #1. The filters had been tested by the laboratory of the armed forces [unclear if this is the Finnish Defence Forces or the Russian armed forces] and were certified as usable, so these masks and filters are in a working condition.

Do not pass A2 and P3
The test result shows that the filters do not pass the European standards for filtration of organic gases, A2. As a particulate filter they didn't either pass the norm for P3. The result is attached in the article [sadly not in detail such as how much they were off etc.

Info for the field
After receiving the report I contacted the section chief of the Prevention of Accidents section at the Rescue department of the Interior ministry, mr. Hannu Olamo. During the discussion it was stated that the problem most likely is nationwide. In order to discover the magnitude of the issue the Interior ministry considers to have investigated some filters from a couple of municipalitie's rescue service departments by the Finnish Defence Forces' laboratory. We also agreed that I pen an article to Rescue [the print magazine]...

Also during normal conditions
In the planning of rescue activites by municipalities and it has also during peacetime/normal situations been counted on that CD-filters may be used in for example industrial accident and radiation accidents. It should be noted that masks and CD-filters are part of the protection gear stored at a considerable amount of apartment buildings and enterprises and facilities. In what condition are they?

Lab result
The filters from Kotka were tested by Scott Health & Safety's laboratory. The result was signed by filter expert Olavi Lagus: "The City of Kotka's Rescue Services Dep't sent to our laboratory six filters from 1965, -72 and -82. Their particulate filtering ability, breathing resistance and gas filtration capability against organic gases (Cyclohexane) were tested. The test was performed according to European norms. The filters that were tested represent old filter technology and do not represent the abilities of modern filters. The test show that they do not conform to the european norm for gas filtration, i.e. class A2. Nor do they conform to the european particulate filtering standard P3 of today. The recommendation is that the filters are as soon as possible exchanged for modern ones that do conform to the standards. The modern CD-filter CF32 A2B2E2K2-P3 (CD) protects against organic, inorganic, acid and ammoniagas or -vapors and against liquid or solid particulates. A shelf life of 10 years is guaranteed." #2

Text: Fire Master [literal translation, I guess captain would be an approximate equivalent, a senior career firefighter at any rate] Ilpo Tolonen
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Notes:

#1: Note that modern Russian gear is referred to (possibly something like this or this, not Soviet-era filter technology, nowadays also Russia produce filters according to the European standard even though sometimes they use the same old form-factor).

#2: unclear if the filters when new would have corresponded to the current day standard or if they were back in the day made to a less stringent standard, at any rate they do not fill the requirements of today's standard.


Here's an image showing three filters, leftmost is a Finnish m/61 civil defense filter (note the adapter from female 60mm to male 40mm, is most likely due to that the Finnish service mask (m61) that was current at the time and which is a clone of the U.S. M9 use 60mm filters and there weren't yet different production lines making the particular filter with 40mm threads, this changed later) from 1969, then a Kemira Safety (now Scott Health & Safety of the article) CF32 [<- manufacturer's designation that doesn't mean much, the letter-and-numbers classification mean something though] A2B2E2K2-P3 (casually ABEK2-P3) filter that expired in 2008 followed by a Dräger X-plore Rd40 which is also a A2B2E2K2-P3 with the addition that it will also filter mercury (thus the formal designation of A2B2E2K2-Hg-P3) that will expire in May 2017.

More comments (such as on the european standard for filters etc.) will follow later.
 

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Very interesting article. I will say that I am glad we (USA) is not the only country with the problems outlined in the article. You have given a valid rebuttal to the concept of buying government surplus masks and especially filters.
 

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Civil Defense Volunteer
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Have trouble with my net connection, at any rate: When I read the article I purchased new equipment for me and my wife. When I moved away from home many years ago I got a Soviet/Russian PMK with the filters made in '92 (and thought I'd be set in case a train transporting chemicals would derail or some other nastiness), that is now only kept as a historical artefact or as a movie prop.

Here's the original article in Finnish, not that Google will translate it into anything resembling a readable text, too specific & technical language in it for that.

Apart from Finland at least Sweden has marked filters with their weight at the factory so that it could be monitored (a weight increase would indicate that the filter had taken up moisture). I've heard that around 2005 the issue outlined in the article became known and many apartment buildings (or rather the "tenant associations" managing them) replaced civil defense mask + filters sets with new ones (not the case in the apartment building I live in though, before I was appointed to the position of CD officer of the building there were old masks along with filters made in 1986 stored in the building fallout shelter, so I assume the last time these were updated was due to the Chernobyl disaster).

New equipment may cost quite a bit, consider though that a mask will usually last 20 years and filters 10 years, so over a 20-year period the cost doesn't amount to much per year at all (a mask + filter + fresh filter after 10 years might cost ~125/150 EUR, or a whopping ~6.25/7.5 EUR per year...).
 
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