Lately, I’ve been wearing the 9913, 3M Particulate Respirator Nuisance Level Organic Vapour Release (that’s the fancy name for this type of mask I use) everywhere I go. Everywhere. I. Go. If I don’t wear it, breathing in solvents, or petrochemical vapours can make me ill. For days…
In a Zen-like way, the duality of life dictates to us all that there are good and bad elements in everything and everyone. And that is certainly true when it comes to wearing a mask; below, is a list I’ve made of the good and bad:
- The obvious being, I can go out and do shopping, run errands and attend classes without getting effected—mostly.
- I can enjoy a better quality of life because I can partake in activities that I wouldn’t be able to—not without getting effected anyway—if I didn’t have it.
- It protects me from airborne chemicals such as sprays, fumes and smoke.
- It’s disposable.
- I can use two if needed. Sometimes—when in an environment where there are solvents in the air from spray deodorants—I put an older one over the top (because the outer layer is made from carbon, it absorbs chemical vapours quickly) extending the life of the inner mask.
- The fabric of the mask allows me to pin a scarf over the top, hiding it (somewhat!), turning it into a fashion accessory.
- If I don’t move my head too much, too quickly to the side or laugh too hard, and I squish the metal piece down hard over my nose, it becomes airtight: my own little bubble of clean air!
- It can serve as a visual reminder to people who I’ve asked to please not wear that hairspray/deodorant/perfume/aftershave that affects me. You know the ones: their ego’s identified and personally attached to it, and they ‘keep forgetting’ to not wear it or ‘defiantly choose’ to keep wearing it.
- As a friend recently pointed out, I’m an awesome role model for other chemically sensitive people: I put on my mask, go out and get what I want, get things done…
- When some people notice I’m wearing a mask and start pointing and/or laughing at me, I can poke my tongue out at them and get away with it! (Childish, I know. But hey, whatever gets a gal through the day…)
- People (who I don’t know) can be cruel, tease or laugh at me.
- Sadly, some people (who I know) are embarrassed to be seen with me…
- In heavy situations—examples: the floor of the Myers make-up/perfume department; the hairdressers; doctors, dentists, or a therapist’s rooms where essential oils are being burnt; or probably the worst, places where fragrances are sprayed out of those small boxes on the walls, which are actually called Fragrance Emitting Devices (FEDs)—the mask ‘saturates’ quickly, and just to make life worse for me, the chemicals and scents stick to my hair and clothes, effecting me later when I remove my mask. And, as an added insult, sitting/driving in an enclosed, hot car afterwards can be a living nightmare!
- Going into a bank and lining up can be a hassle because people look at me funny, most likely wondering why I have my face covered. In a bank, for dog’s sake.
- It can get stuffy after an hour or two, breathing is restricted and the lack of oxygen can make me feel vague. (Not nice in a learning situation like a classroom.)
- People can’t see my facial expressions, which can make communication difficult.
- It can affect my confidence: sometimes I feel ridiculous, stupid or like a freak—or all of those at once—and I don’t want to go anywhere, especially alone. (If I allow myself to indulge in these feelings and thoughts, I feel like staying home and hiding from the world forever (and some days I do); instead I focus on the things I want, need to achieve, or do: my future!).
Purchase a 3M mask
In the US from Achoo Allergy
In bulk, online, from the 3M shop
In Australia, singly, or by the box, from AESSRA (the Allergy, Environmental, Sensitivity, Support and Research Association); the masks are stored and packed by people who are sensitive to chemicals; and as well, they sell cellophane bags for storing them in (however, to purchase masks, you need to be a member).
Also in Australia, by the boxful (15 masks) from EsiDirect
More information can be found on the Australian 3M website
Because the 3M mask is made from synthetic materials, some people may not be able to use it… Silk and cotton masks are available from I Can Breathe in the US and Australia
And then there is the Respro Allergy Mask (available from the US)
In Canada, the Aero mask and filters can be ordered from Quorum Allergy .
Read more about wearing a mask on the Environmental Illness Resource website
Do you wear a mask to protect your health? Can you recommend a good one? Do you think this might lead me out of the Labyrinth of chemical sensitivities?