NEW Forest District Council is alerting people to the risk of handling Second World War gas masks following a warning from the Joint Union Asbestos Committee.

Schools, history societies and individuals who own the masks are being warned not to handle them or put them over their faces after tests show that asbestos fibres can be released and pose a health risk. Filters and carrying bags can also be contaminated.

Councillor Di Brooks, New Forest District Council’s portfolio holder for health and leisure, said: “With the centenary of the First World War and the 70th anniversary of D-Day coming up in 2014, people may be thinking about using these masks for demonstrations but the advice is to stop using them immediately and avoid taking risks.”