Contrary to some reports, chemists and military experts say that gas masks can protect against nerve gases such as sarin. Although sarin gas can seep through the skin, breathing it delivers a lethal dose about 400 times fasterso the mask could give you enough time to escape from a noxious cloud. The bad news is that you need to know whether the mask really works (surplus units are untested), how to put it on (the fit must be airtight), when to put it on (by the time you recognize the symptoms, it is probably too late) and when to take it off (the masks are too uncomfortable to keep on indefinitely). None of the experts interviewed for this article bothers to own a mask.

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