As much as we would like to forget the fact is that we, apart from maybe Keith Richards, are all mortals and are completely reliant on our atmosphere for both the oxygen we need to breath and the fact that it does not contain toxic substances in enough quality to shorten our lives dramatically.
However, there are still fairly common environments where breathing without any form of breathing protection would be imprudent to say the least. One little known fact about the Chernobyl nuclear power station accident in the late 1980s is that emergency workers on the scene did not wear the protective clothing and breathing equipment necessary to protect themselves from the radioactive material and a huge number of them died – despite many believing that drinking a substantial amount of alcohol would protect them from any health dangers.
Regardless, here are some examples of environments when breathing equipment – rather than alcohol – is considered a good idea.
Spray-painting any surface will give it a smoother and more even and thinner finish, than pulling out a paintbrush and roller and, more importantly for us lazy people, it is also takes considerable less effort. However, while 40% of this paint will land where you’re pointing the gun the rest of it will hang in the air and if you don’t wear some protective equipment. Your lungs will fill with what is a very toxic substance.
Now cynics among us may snigger at the idea of gas masks doing any good whatsoever when two engines stop functioning at 40,000 feet and the plane goes into free-fall. However, if anybody is paying attention to the emergency procedure choreographed so professionally by the cabin crew they would understand that the oxygen masks are not only there for these extreme – and very unlikely – situations.
The point is that airplanes have a system that creates an artificial atmosphere that allows us to breathe naturally and comfortably at an altitude, when this should not really be possible. And, when there is a change in cabin pressure or atmospheric composition to the extent that the system is not able to recalibrate itself quickly enough, these oxygen masks pop down to give the passengers direct access to oxygen.
Fire-fighters are one of the many public service heroes that we both know and love; they save people’s lives on a day to day basis and ask for no credit. Their appeal lies in the way they rescue orphans from burning buildings on a daily basis, but in order to enter these smoke and fume filled environments, they have to wear special breathing apparatus.
As such, the only reason they really have this appeal is because of those working behind the scenes to make safety equipment, like breathe safety air compressors, and these people don’t really get the credit they deserve. And, while fire fighting is the job most people most closely associate with protective breathing equipment, there are a great many more jobs that would not be possible without this equipment.