NRBC protection at WWII

CBRN is a technical term referring to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear risks. Emerging during the Cold War, CBRN protection represents all the military and civil defense measures and strategies to face new types of dangers. These risks appeared during the Second World War: atomic bombs, chemical warfare agents, etc. With the discovery of these new weapons, the term ABC (Atomic, Biological, Chemical) has evolved to become CBN, then CBRN.

CBRN protection gathers all the measures implemented to protect populations and military forces potentially exposed to CBRN risk and threats. Among these measures, CBRN Personal Protective Equipment has been developed especially for military forces, including respiratory protection and skin protection suit.

Chemical protective suits

Before choosing the appropriate Chemical Protective Suit, it is necessary to identify which substances are present in the environment and against which protection is required. Depending on the activity and area of application, chemical agents are diverse. Troops and individuals likely to encounter a CBRN threat or be in contact with these hazardous materials must be trained on each chemical and must know the health implications.

Chemical suit CHEM3

Chemical agents

Chemical agents, highly toxic liquid, gaseous or solid substances, are listed in two categories: industrial products and chemical weapons. There are various kinds of chemical agents with CBRN (Nuclear, Radiological, Biological, and Chemical) risk.

First, they are listed according to the mode of action:

  • Organophosphorus neurotoxic: it is the most dangerous chemical weapon (e.g. sarin gas, discovered in Germany in 1939 and used during the Second World War). It penetrates the body through the skin or the respiratory tract and causes nervous and vital system dysfunction until death in a few minutes.
  • Vesicant liquid: it is an oily chemical agent that burns the skin. When added to a solvent, it becomes gaseous. It can cause blindness and cancer. It was first synthesized in 1822 and used during the First World War as a toxic war gas in Belgium.
  • Asphyxiant or suffocating gas: it is a volatile liquid attacking the mucous membranes of the mouth. Rarely used, we can find some in chlorine or phosgene form.
  • Hemotoxic: it is a chemical product blocking the passage of oxygen in the blood, causing asphyxiation.

Chemical agents

Then, they are classified according to their use:

  • Neutralizing chemical agents cause incapacitation upon exposure. They can be used during a terrorist threat to disorganize the attack. In this case, we speak of chemical weapons (generally known as CBRN) used in a military context. Among other chemical agents, there are also industrial products that act differently in the body according to their characteristics (respiratory toxicity by chlorine, systemic toxicity by cyanide).
  • The incapacitating agents, likely used by terrorists, cause temporary mental and physical problems that persist long after exposure.
  • Lethal agents trigger the death of the exposed person. They are applicable in military and terrorist operations.

Choosing the right chemical protective suit

Selecting the right chemical protective suit requires analyzing the degree of risk, the time of exposure, and the chemical encountered.

Chemical Protective Suits are essential PPE for intervention teams likely to be in contact with risks of chemical vapors, biological aerosols, volatile and hazardous substances. They allow, for example, to avoid contact with decontamination agents, contaminated materials, with chemical or organic substances.

Chemical protection clothes CHEM3

  • Type 4 chemical suits are the first level of protection. It is aerosol-proof but has little resistance to liquids. It is either meant to detect "suspicious powder" or used as an undercoat.
  • The type 3 suit, called TLD (Light Decontamination Suit), is a single-use coverall. Made of plastic, it is very resistant to liquids and waterproof. However, you should avoid wearing it too long. The CHEM 3 suit is splash-proof and liquid-proof and made of an innovative material that offers undeniable comfort.
  • The protective suit for permanent wear (T3P) features several layers, including one in activated carbon. It is filtering and more comfortable.
  • The permanent protective suit (S3P) is ideal for fighters who can quickly put it on during action in a risky area. It provides 24-hour protection and includes a composite jacket, hood, and pants

NRBC Dräger workwear CPS 7800

  • The Type 1 chemical protection suit is the complete outfit. Among them, Dräger CPS 7900 and CPS 7800 suits provide optimum protection in extreme conditions. Their ergonomic design allows the compressed air breathing apparatus that could be inside or outside the coverall. Designed with an innovative material, they are impervious to solid, liquid, and gaseous chemicals. They also efficiently protect against biological agents, toxic substances, and CBRN risks.

NRBC Dräger workwear CPS 7900

Respiratory protection

The CBRN mask is an integral part of the respiratory protection package. The manufacturers develop the device according to the guidelines and regulations governing the U.S. NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) CBRN standard.

CBRN Classified Cartridges

Soldier with gas mask

The CBRN mask features universal threading (DIN40) to connect a wide range of 40mm filter cartridges following NATO and European Union guidelines (EN 148-1). As with any filtering respiratory protective equipment, the effectiveness of the CBRN mask depends on its CBRN filter.

The CBRN cartridge includes three filters: the first one is a separator removing 98% of coarse dust; the second filter is made of paper and retains particles of biological substances; the third level is an activated carbon one that prevents the remaining gases from infiltrating.

Also called civil protection filter or NATO filter, the CBRN filter must be NIOSH certified. It guarantees protection against airborne biological, radiological, and nuclear agents. In addition to this protection, CBRN filters are available in the entire range of ABEK combination filters. They can fit with all standard full-face masks. For example, a military gas mask will get an A2B2E2K1-P3 filter for protection against organic and inorganic gases and vapors, acids, ammonia, organic derivatives, solid and liquid particles, and CBRN agents. Therefore, CBRN filters are appropriate for the harshest environments, such as civil and military defense interventions.


The CBRN mask, more commonly known as a military gas mask, is PPE designed to withstand chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear dangers. This respiratory protective equipment is mainly for law enforcement and the army.

This PPE, especially CBRN masks dedicated to military and national civil security applications, are often developed specifically for a country (known as Soviet gas mask or Israeli military mask). They are generally not commercially available.

The military gas mask affords high-level protection against nuclear, chemical, radiological, and biological agents. It is a full-face mask protecting the respiratory tract (nose and mouth) and the eyes for maximum safety. The CBRN mask is designed to offer comfort to its user and the best protection during civil and military security applications. It has a wide field of vision, a black color to avoid glare, and an ergonomic design that provides high performance.

CBRN mask for soldier

NIOSH CBRN certified, this equipment must meet a set of technical requirements to ensure its effectiveness: durability and performance of all elements, impact and temperature resistance, filtering, insulating, soundproofing performance, etc.

Self-contained Breathing Apparatus

Selecting the best-suited SCBA to the field of application and the risks involved is essential. Thus, we could find devices especially created for decontamination or hazardous substances removal. Those are robust, comfortable, and flexible so that the wearer feels comfortable in his movements. SCBAs have the particularity of being most versatile, easily configurable, and requiring little maintenance. 

In addition to SCBAs, certain accessories are also essential to equipment for CBRN risks:

  • CBRN gloves are essential because the hands are in direct contact with chemical elements, whether liquid, solid, or gaseous. Different materials depend on the chemical risks encountered:
    • Nitrile fights against oil and hydrocarbons but also bacteria and viruses. Therefore nitrile gloves are suitable for the chemical, automotive, and food industries.
    • Butyl protects against toxic or corrosive chemical splashes and gases. Very resistant, it is suitable for the oil and chemical industries.
    • Cryogenic gloves are designed for cold protection, like liquid nitrogen projections.
  • Footwear is generally not waterproof enough to protect against CBRN risks. It is, therefore, necessary to provide either boot that protects the feet from any contact with splashes or overboots.

The individual CBRN protection kit is available in each country. All armed forces can have protective suits, identification and detection equipment, and filtering or insulating respiratory protection equipment.