How to Get Your 3M Mask to Seal Tight

Hello! I’ve not been around this blog much due to having an awful winter where I lost tolerance to a lot of my safe foods (and as I’ve just discovered via testing with my Allergist and Immunologist, this was due to the mould, Pullaria). I’ve spent most of my time holding onto the furniture while feeling as if I am spinning uncontrollably out of control. Not fun.  Woodsmoke coupled with food reactions to the most benign foods (bananas, dates and even broccoli) have made my life miserable these last few months. However, now the weather’s cleared up, and we are so close to starting our build, I’m feeling much better… somewhat like my old self—only stronger, braver and excited to be back!

And, I’ve made a YouTube clip for you all:

This video is about How to Wear a 3M Filter Mask to protect your health from chemical irritants such as fragrance, solvents and petrochemicals used in perfumes and spray deodorants and ‘air-fresheners’. I talk about how to seal it and (somewhat) disguise it so that (some) people are less likely to tease you and pay out on you when you go out in a public space. Also, I speak about what happens when I go into a bank while wearing this over my face.

I seal the mask with the scarf because if I laugh, smile or move my face to much, fragrance and other chemical irritants get inside via the sides of the mask when it lifts off my face; so by using the scarf I can create a better seal. So far, I’ve managed to avoid having to use a heavy-duty, cumbersome silicone (or TPE or rubber) mask when I go into public spaces.

Another benefit of the scarf is it extends the life of the 3M carbon filter mask because the fabric of the scarf collects a layer of air-borne fragrance and chemical particles before the carbon saturates. I always air my scarves as soon as I can then wash them before using them.

(We all share the air! Please don’t wear fragrance when you go out into a shared public space. It’s the chemicals contained in the majority of these personal care products that impact on other people’s health; and, it’s the chemicals NOT the smell that’s the problem here.)

The mask is a 3M Nuisance mask and I bought mine from AESSRA

If you are in Australia (or want to shop here), you can find a snood scarf just like the one I used in the video at Bhumi Organic Cotton. (this link has been updated.)

Do you have any tricks for getting a good seal on your mask that you’d like to share with us today?

More from Maskology

Do it Yourself: Air Filtering Mask

What it’s like to Wear a Mask 9.2 Years Later

A Masked Duality

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

How To Have a Low Chemical Car

Today, I’m re-publishing an article I wrote for AESSRA’s Sensitivity Matters Magazine way back in 2007 when I first bought my Subaru, which was lovingly slaved over until it became a safe enough car for me to drive. This car and I were so good together. We drove to Wilsons Promontory, and many other camping spots. We outdrove bushfire smoke quite a few times, sleeping down near the beach; and tackled dirt tracks just to find tranquility amongst clean air. Sadly, it’s no longer safe for me to drive. I now know what it’s like to live in self-imposed reclusion. Without human contact. I get it when other chemically sensitive people say they avoid contact with others for the sake of their health. I put off doing this for so long. I guess I need the business of human interaction; the sound of laughter; the visual palette of colour seen in peoples’ clothing; the warmth of a familiar smile; hearing snippets of conversation, or being part of a conversation (No, Facebook does not count (for me, it’s too awkward, but, yes, Skype does!).


Okay, it’s not a car, it’s a dog kennel on wheels


This year is my hiatus from Victoria University, sure, I’ve got a house to build, so taking a year off is a good idea. But due to the situation with my car, it’s a forced hiatus. I can’t say I miss the occasional fragrance exposure or wrangling a fragrance free learning environment, but I can say I miss the interpersonal relationships, the teachers, the other students and most of all the assignments. Even though I’d only go to class once a week, and on those days I’d Double Up on Chemical Exposures for the Sake of Convenience, that one little slice of life was enough for me–even if, at times, I did get sick.

After driving my car last Friday to go shopping to choose a floor tile, I ended up sick in bed until Monday lunchtime: that was the whole long weekend laid up with a smashing headache, depression-and-sadness-like symptoms, irritability, photosensitivity, exhaustion and nausea. I suppose the good thing about this–now that it’s over–is that I can see there’s a set of symptoms that are caused by the fumes (from the car’s own exhaust fumes, and other cars’ fumes) that are not what they seem. It’s only because I’ve had the last six months of respite to actually enjoy feeling like the normal happy-go-lucky person I am that I have the acuity to see that a mass chemical exposure can cause these type of emotional symptoms. I kind of worry saying this (here, on the internet, and to people I know, like my GP or specialist) because I, myself, find it hard to believe, so I guess others may find it difficult to believe also. What helps me to know about this is I’ve often (over the last two years) felt suicidal when recovering from chemical exposures, and to know that this is not how I actually feel and that my feelings are not a true representation of my life or my self-worth, despite my illness, that it’s just a set of symptoms is valuable. It also puts the concept of others not understanding, not being tolerable to our situation into perspective also: this too shall pass as will they. (This may be a part of why we are forced into living in isolation: we need to save ourselves!)

If anyone else goes through this, or has in the past, I understand, I really do.

When I went to the tile shop it was the fourth one in about a month. I tried to space each of the visits out around a week or two so that I had time to recover (which, in each case, was the very next day), therefore, not causing my chemical sensitivities to worsen or spread to other substances (or worsen food intolerances). I wore a mask (two actually!). I took someone with me who could steer me away from fragrance wearers, or quickly out of the shop if there were petrochemicals or solvents [think tile grouts and glues]. It’s possible there was something in the shop while I was in there (for around forty minutes), and they did sell carpet samples (Hello! Carpet samples! Yeah, I know.) Afterwards, on the way home, car fumes, diesel fumes, my car’s fumes, woodsmoke and damp air (it’s winter here in Melbourne) swamped me. I held the two masks over my face as tight as I could trying to filter out noxious fumes. I knew I was getting sicker by the minute but I also knew that a part of me should’ve been happy: after four tile shops in just over a month, I’d found my tile at my price. Sadness and depression can come over in an instant? Yes, and I lost all my cognitive skills and memory, couldn’t breathe without sharp pains deep in my head, behind my eyes, and I started to cry. Uncontrollably. The drive home (about fifty minutes) was like going to hell and beyond. The next few days were only better because there were no fumes gassing away my health, however, the shock of what happened still remains:

I’ve decided to drive my car as little as possible, and in fact, I’m mostly driven around in it due to having lost my memory a few times (once on a freeway). In a few weeks I have a dental appointment down in Melbourne; a trip that’s usually exciting to me (seriously, I don’t get out much!) I plan to wear a respirator mask all the way there and back; however, not into the dentist’s as they’re very accommodating.

I’m still excited about this trip because afterwards we can get some sweet potato fries from Lord of the Fries (I BYO my own sauce! The recipe can be found here.). I just need to not get sick so I can enjoy my fries and not want to throw up over them.

Anyway, here’s my article, hope it’s of help to someone! There’s also some information on the Foust car filter that I use. If your car keeps out fumes, it’s great to keep the cabin space free from outgassing chemicals!

Download (PDF, 809KB)

If you know of a brand of car that’s suitable for someone else who is sensitive to chemicals, particularly petrochemicals, solvents, fragrances and moulds, a car that’s preferably an AWD wagon or van (an SUV is a possibility also), one that has a pollen filter (and possibly a HEPA filter), please let me and my readers know in the comments below…


The Labyrinth: Is Your New Car Smell Harming You?

The Labyrinth: How to Seal in Fragrance in Your Steering Wheel (Cause it’s not going to wash off, yeah?)

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

How to Get Fragrance Free Glasses!

Earlier, this year, I wrote about ‘Doubling up on Chemical Exposures for the Sake of Convenience‘. Odd title, I know but—as I found out from that post—that’s just what so many of us do when there’s an appointment to go to: we double up, even triple up. (Wrongly, so wrongly, some of us can’t go out at all, even.) On that day, I didn’t want to drag myself anywhere, let alone somewhere where I’d be standing in a room with other people who would most likely be wearing fragrances and other spray type products. And I was right. They were! My eyes stung, caustically. And as I moved my mouth to speak, the 3M mask allowed fragrance chemicals through sides that don’t seal tight enough around my face: the shitty taste of Armani-like fragrance, followed by the smell, infiltrated my senses; but not before swiftly kicking three weeks of good health into the gutter.

The moment I got out of there, which turned out to be only thirty long minutes later, after walking out passed the building’s exit, passed the miniature chimneys of smoke coming from people sucking on cigarettes furiously giving head to their frustrations, I made a beeline for my car. While still parked in the disabled parking zone, I took off my mask, pulled a clean set of clothes, including an army jacket, from a bag I’d packed earlier, and proceeded to change clothes by pulling the new items over the top of my body, while sliding off the perfume contaminated ones underneath. (Talented, I know.) The best way to stop the exposure was to remove the clothing that was covered in the fragrance chemicals causing it.

Once I had a ‘clean’ set of clothes, I took a spray bottle of water kept in the car for times just like this, and cleansed my skin, wiping any fragrance residue away with tissues. I checked my face in the rear-vision mirror: Yep! The tell-tale red rash in the shape of a butterfly was stinging its wingspan across my face. Oh well, may as well make the most of this and head to the shops, I thought. As I grabbed a fresh mask from the old Weetbix tin that’s kept in the back seat of my car, the old thrill of going shopping cursed through my veins: I wanted to go to Target, even though I had no reason. (It had been more than nine months. And after finishing Part 1 of my interview with Kathryn Treat, where we discussed going to Target while chemically sensitive, I had been fantasying about such a trip!) No plan to buy anything in particular. Just allow myself to be carried along by impulsivity for a change. (A dangerous pursuit for someone with MCS).

My partner, Dan, used to be a typical male (Is that sexist to say?), not enjoying shopping unless there was method behind the madness, but now, things have changed: he encourages me because he knows that if I want to go into a polluted building, it’s because I’m either on the mend or not had a chemical exposure for some time (we’re not sure, it could be both, but we embrace this opportunity, anyway). Purely on a whim, we ended up in the Waurn Ponds branch of OPSM (an optometrist and glasses shop), instead of Target.

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No, it’s not a stick up!

It’s been eight years since I last bought a pair of reading glasses, while also getting my eyesight re-checked. I’d been due for the last two years: my DKNY sturdy black frames had cracks along the ear pieces. They rubbed, scratching their way into irritation that I managed to ignore. I’d fantasised many times about going to the Optometrists but kept putting it off, all because I had to find a new one, doing the ol’ Will-you-go-fragrance-free-for-me? dance. My last Optometrist was in Rosebud, a whole boat ride on a diesel ferry away from where I live. You know when you have to go to the trouble of organising staff to be fragrance free so that they can attend to you by actually peering into your face at close range, it’s easy to ignore scratches behind your ears…

Well, no longer. Here I was in OPSM trying on glasses, while my partner was busy explaining to the shop attendant how I had fragrance allergies and it’d be best if she didn’t get too close. And guess what happened? No, she wasn’t dripping in Britney Spears or Charleze Theron, but she did tell us she wasn’t wearing any sprays because she didn’t like them. And, she was friendly, too; treating me as if I didn’t even have this weirdo mask plastered to my face. I immediately stopped being the freak I’ve succumbed into feeling like: a result of being teased, commented on and/or laughed at while shopping (another reason—although minuscule compared to an illness caused by chemicals—to avoid visiting the shops). I felt at ease, asking if they had any glasses the same as my old trusty pair of faithfuls. She had better than that: she had the same DNKY black-rimmed glasses but with bright pink accents running along the edges of the black frames. And the glass area was bigger, too, giving me a larger scope of peripheral vision!


Dan found a pair of sunglasses that could have my script fitted into them. I would never have chosen this particular brand, not just because of the price (although, we got them discounted due to a health fund) but because they are Prada: almost too Milano-I’m-dripping-in-Armani looking.  And bug eyed! However, the shape is extraordinarily special because they wrap right around, blocking out not only the sun, but also any wind. And, they can protect my eyes from getting fragrance in them when I walk in public spaces. When that happens, they dry, they sting, and it’s just another level of exposure I have to put up with if I want to go somewhere.

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I settled on those two pairs, and made an appointment to see an Optometrist during a time when it could be arranged for them to not be wearing any sprays or scents. We made it for first thing in the morning so that I wouldn’t be in a cloud of another customer’s cologne or hairspray. The staff also attached a note to the technicians so they could give me brand new glasses rather than the ones from the shop that had been tried on by Who Knows wearing Who Knows What; and, most thoughtfully, they wrote instructions on the paperwork for them not to be cleaned with fragrances or any sprays or any cleaning solutions. I hadn’t thought of this.


The extra trouble they went to meant that I didn’t have to air out my new specks, and it negated the possibility of not being able to use them, ever!, because they had become contaminated by known airway and eye irritants.


So I went back a week later, had my eyes checked, finding out that there’s no change to my prescription: Still a slight astigmatism, and a little bit of scar tissue from some old sun damage. The last optometrist said this scar tissue was caused by irritation from inhaling chemicals that caused inflammation, but it’s good to know it’s actually caused from the sun but it’s chemical exposures (particularly fragrance) that flares it up. I get a red line going across my eye that stings like crazy. It’s always the left eye that cops it worse. And, often, it’s only the left eye that’s left stinging and burning like someone dragged a hot knife over my eyeball from side to side. It’s great to know I can prevent this from getting worse by wearing sunglasses when outside.


Bug-eyed Melfie

(Speaking of being outside in the sun: I have some awesome news, I’m able to spend time, like hours!, out on my front balcony, in the sunshine and fresh air (Hello, Vitamin D that’s not in a capsule!). This is a breakthrough because when I first moved here, I couldn’t sit outside for long because each time a car or truck went passed (400 metres away) the fumes would come up and totally gas me. Now, I can’t even feel it, nor can I smell it. Sometimes it might be one of those (polluting-scum-bag) cars or trucks that blow out dirty exhaust and then, yes, I have to move inside. I know from previous experience, this is a sign of healing. I’ll share some more about my success and what I’ve been doing asap…)

You know, I found the Optometrist and staff at Waurn Ponds OPSM to be really friendly, fragrance free (upon request) and willing to go out of normal procedure to accommodate my needs. (Check out their use of cotton gloves for handling my goggles; their idea, not mine.) I’ll definitely be going back, in possibly about another eight years when it’s time to get new specs!

Things You Can Try to Do This Too:
  • Ask for an appointment with an Optometrist who is willing to go fragrance free
  • Wear a mask if you need to, even two! (Or one mask with a cotton scarf layered over the top like I did!)
  • Tell them not to clean with any sprays on the day of your appointment
  • And not to clean your glasses with any cleaners with any ingredients that could impact on your health (for me, I just say: fragrances, solvents and petrochemicals)
  • Take cotton gloves for them to use to handle your glasses with
  • Ask them to include the gloves, and instructional note, to the laboratory where they will go to
  • If you face any resistance, explain that they are blocking your access to goods and services based on a disability; or, just go somewhere else (can you really trust someone who finds it such a pain in the rectum to have to help others, especially when they are being paid to do so?)
  • If you are house-bound due to having environmental controls in place (practicing chemical avoidance as your main treatment) and already have a prescription for your glasses, then you could possibly buy them online (see links below)

Share: do you have any handy techniques for getting items like reading glasses from buildings polluted by fragrance chemicals? When was your last eye check up? Can you access appropriate care (a basic human right) that we all need?


Sonda’s visit to get new glasses

Two places where you can buy glasses online in Australia

Sneaking Duck


Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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