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See It: This Bubble Isn't Made To Keep Germs Out, but the Mask Inside Is

The gear looks awkward but saves lives.

(Image source: U.S. Navy)

This plastic, bubble-like covering over this Sailor's head isn't designed to keep germs away from his face. 

The clear contraption instead is part of a "fit test" for equipment made to protect military members from a chemical, biological or radiological attack. The mask underneath the bubble has to keep deadly particles out of the users lungs, and this is the way they put that no-fail gear to the test. 

(Image source: U.S. Navy) (Image source: U.S. Navy)

In case of an immanent biological, chemical or nuclear attack, Sailors, Soldiers, Marines or Airmen within the blast zone will don the masks and the accompanying protective body garments, typically referred to as "chem gear." But the life-saving masks must cling like a suction cup to the face without letting any air seep in around the edges of the mouth or nose.

Dave Singer, the Individual Protective Equipment Far East Coordinator for Griffin Technologies, ran the tests Monday for the MCU2P protective masks. So how does the bubble contraption work? Singer explained;

"There is a cord and a sensor on the mask and a sensor under the hood ... the mask leakage tester puts a certain amount of mineral oil aerosol under the hood, and if there is a leak in the mask, the sensor that is attached to the mask will determine. And the score on the machine tells the operator whether or not the mask passed or failed that particular test."

The tests include simulating the necessary range of motion the user would likely need during "an actual CBR emergency" to include moving one’s head sided to side, chewing gum, labored breathing and normal breathing.

Lt. Charles M. Banks Jr., 7th Fleet task force public affairs director, told TheBlaze the masks protect against all known chemical, biological and radiation agents.

"Chemical hazards include any chemical manufactured, used, transported, or stored which can cause death or other harm through toxic properties of those materials. This includes chemical agents and chemical weapons (prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention), as well as toxic industrial chemicals," he said.

"Biological hazards include any organism, or substance derived from an organism, that poses a threat to human or animal health. This can include medical waste, samples of a microorganism, virus, or toxin (from a biological source) that can impact human health," Lieutenant Banks explained.  "Radiological hazards include any nuclear radiation (i.e., electromagnetic or particulate radiation) that is capable of producing ions that cause damage, injury, or destruction."

(Image source: U.S. Navy) Singer adjusts a strap on one Sailor's mask before testing the fit (Image source: U.S. Navy)

Singer conducted the "fit test" Monday for sailors on a ship currently deployed in the Pacific.

"Over here in the Western Pacific, my area of responsibility, it’s a target of opportunity ... since 7th Fleet is forward deployed, fit tests are scheduled the forward deployed ships and unit because of the high rate of turnover," he said. "In the States, its based on a ship’s deployment cycle. Sailors are fitted prior to deployment."

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Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter

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