How come I was never issued an emergency gas mask like this?

Which gas mask would you rather wear?

I’m clearly not the only one fascinated by the gas mask bra, a serious product developed by Dr. Elena Bodnar — a physician who discovered that victims of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster were just as likely to be harmed by particle inhalation as radiation.

But science really has little to do with why the irreverent and attractive Bodnar is getting us to ponder the nuances of emergency preparedness.  Isn’t “Cleavage in a Crisis” the ultimate fantasy news crawl for Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and the rest?

And then there is Bodnar’s habit of taking her bra off during press conferences and wrapping them around Nobel laureates. No wonder why CNET’s Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is smitten by the inventor’s “alluring Ukrainian accent.”

Celebrating Cleavage in a Crisis (Source:

My flippant enjoyment of this story is a dramatic 180-degree turn from the brief time in my life that I needed to wear a gas mask. In January 1991, I was in Jerusalem when the first Gulf War broke out. I had my very own mask like the one at the top left of this post, complete with its own Hebrew-decorated carrying case (I couldn’t read the disclaimers, but I know I was supposed to stab my leg with the syringe if the guy on the radio said so). I wrote in my journal through the foggy lenses while the freaky air raid sirens were wailing at two in the morning.

My Gulf War buddies in Jerusalem.

I was in Israel doing volunteer work for the phenomenal Project Otzma with other goody-two-shoes Americans. My friends all took the gas masks seriously, but they didn’t get too uptight about it. They posed for endless pictures with the masks, bought satirical gas mask t-shirts and did their best Darth Vader impressions.  I was too pissed to join in the fun. I was pissed that we all had to carry around gas mask boxes slung on our shoulders like purses. I was pissed that we were supposed to pretend that Israeli kids decorating their boxes with crayons was uplifting and defiant.  I was pissed that Iraq was sending missiles into Israel to retaliate for the United States attacking Iraq.

Anyhow, I refused to pose for a Tacky Tourist Photo in the mask and don’t regret it.

But years later, my humorlessness about possible poison gas attacks dissipates when we are talking about hypothetical scenarios and hot pink bras.

Congratulations, Dr. Bodnar for bringing your unorthodox idea to market and selling the hell out of it!

Sex appeal aside, does the gas mask filter work?

The Emergency Bra Website claims its lingerie is “a public risk management tool that can provide a person with a critical time window that might be sufficient to escape from life threatening environments.”  The bra “can reduce health consequences of accidents involving harmful airborne particles, such as those released by fire, explosion, terrorist, radiological, biological attack and natural disasters.”

As for the logistics, here’s what happens when the bra comes off… It’s very airline stewardess-esque:


UPDATE (9/28/10): Just learned first hand from Dr. Bodnar that her Emergency Bra is NOT meant to be a substitute for military-issued gas masks or specialized respiratory devices used by emergency responders.  So, in retrospect, thank you Israel, for hooking me up with your gas mask instead of a bra.

(RELATED STORY: “Austin Powers” Fembot Fashions Thrive in Syria)


Filed under Fashion, Lingerie Gas Masks

2 responses to “How come I was never issued an emergency gas mask like this?

  1. Tasmyn

    seems like an unfair advantage to those of us who would, say, have less “breathing” room then others.

  2. Jonathan

    Nice comment from Tasmyn – Was this a practice session depicted in the Gulf War shot? Or was this for reals?

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