Vintage gas masks and asbestos

Publication Date: 21 March 2019

Concerns have been raised about the sale of WW II gas masks on the internet.

World War II gas masks may contain asbestos, a substance that is harmful to health. Exposure to asbestos can cause diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Although the risk of developing these diseases is very low (most disease is the result of past heavier and repeated exposure to asbestos, e.g. in an industrial setting), everyone’s exposure to asbestos should be minimised at all times.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has previously advised schools, for example, that all vintage gas masks should be assumed to contain asbestos (unless there is clear evidence that they do not), and they should not be worn or handled. This advice also applies to World War I “Brodie” helmets.

The supply of items containing asbestos is illegal. Individuals concerned about the sale of items that may contain asbestos, including from online sales, should contact their Local Authority Trading Standards team.