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Combo Bra/Gas Mask Wins 'Booby' Prize

By Bob Gordon     Nov 16, 2009 in Lifestyle
Shoe bombs a la Richard Reid and shoe phones a la Maxwell Smart are so yesterday. Today's dual-use secret weapon is the bra/mask. That is right, a brassiere that converts into not one, but two, protective face masks.
The Ig Nobel Awards are mock Nobel's celebrating strange and unusual achievements. A complete list of all ten winners this year can be found here.
This year, the IgNobel prize for Public Health went to Elena Bodnar of Hinsdale, Illinois and colleagues who designed and patented a bra that can be quickly converted into a pair of gas masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some bra-less bystander.
Dr. Bodnar explained the inspiration for the bra-mask to the Chicago Maroon, the University of Chicago student newspaper:
I was inspired to create a bra-mask by the Chernobyl nuclear accident. I was a young medical university graduate when Chernobyl hit the Ukraine in 1986.... Large amounts of Iodine-131 [a radioactive element] were released from the damaged reactor. The general population was heavily impacted due to absence of personal protective devices. Face masks were not available.... That’s when and why my idea was initially born. Unfortunately it was not implemented until after 9/11, when the actual patent was developed at the University of Chicago in 2004.
The design reflects that long gestation period. According to Dr. Bodnar, "The brilliance of my idea is that it's very simple." The bra has snaps at both the front and back. This permits it to be separated in to two pieces. Each cup is a mask, each shoulder strap becomes a strap that rides over the wearers head. At the same time the strap can be looped over the neck and hooked to the cup, securing the cup tightly to the wearer's mouth and nose.
Proof that lawyers can even reduce bras to boring legalese the following is an excerpt from the patent application abstract:
A bra garment comprising: a plurality of detachable cup sections, each of the cup sections having: (a) a filter device; (b) a first portion positionable adjacent to a first central area of a user's chest; (c) a second portion positionable adjacent to a second outer area of the user's chest adjacent to an underarm; and (d) a valve device.
The illustration below is one of the sketches that accompanied the patent application.
Bra/Gas Mask
Drawings that accompanied the patent application for the bra/gas mask.
Bodnar is encouraged by the response the design has been getting and believes that an Ig Nobel is excellent publicity. Therefore, for her, the future is clear, “Media exposure and strong feedback following the nomination confirmed that the demand for the product is high. Therefore, I am going to aggressively pursue commercialization.”
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