Many of us (too many now) have to wear a mask to filter some of the pollutants out of the air we have to breathe. I guess I am lucky that I have not cared about what people think when I wear mine to protect my health.
For others, it’s not an easy decision, for a variety of reasons, and sadly, most of them have to do with a lack of understanding and acceptance in our communities.
In January, three bloggers that I am aware of have written about their mask wearing experience.
Colleen wrote about her resistance to wearing a mask breakthrough in a wonderful post here:
Day 31 In the Pursuit of Love.
Please check it out, and if you are so inclined after, follow her link to Michellina’s post, where you will also find comments about more people’s experiences.
Both Colleen and Michellina write about their lives with MCS, so take some time to explore while you visit their blogs.
I wrote something about masks a few months ago in the post called “Need Protection?” where I list some resources in case you are in need of a mask yourself.
I think we should all have a right to breathe clean air, and no-one should have a right to pollute, but until we change the laws, the burden of protecting our health from polluters falls upon us.
Those of us with more severe MCS/ES need more choices of masks that are made of natural, toxic chemical-free materials only, no synthetics or textile additives. So if there are any entrepreneurs out there, listen up: there is a growing need for safe (dare I also ask for fun and fashionable?) non-toxic face masks!
Thanks for the link and the resources. I like your idea for decorating them. Maybe jewel encrusted for evening. Go Team … for sporting events. I have to admit I went out today and didn’t wear mine. I needed to in the restaurant but couldn’t figure out a way to drink tea and eat with it on. My dad is 80 and my time with him each Saturday I have to admit is more important than the hives, tight throat and body aches I have now. We stopped at Ontario Orchards to pick up my food-based soap — the owner happens to be a cousin and we got talking — her sister now has MCS and I commented how I could stand next to her without a problem — she said they had another relative who lived with them 25 years ago who couldn’t be near perfume/cologne and she never wore it again. One person at a time — the word will get out there. :D
I wish there were more safe enough spaces we could spend time with others who are not quite non-toxic enough to come into our homes.
I am seeing a pretty big shift in awareness suddenly – too many people are being affected.
I think we will reach the tipping point soon, and with us writing about our journeys and what we have learned, the people who are finding themselves sick and disabled now may have an easier time learning what they can do, and then we’ll be able to push for more prevention.
Thank-you for this inspiring article. I quit using my gas stove, replaced my 45 year old gas furnace, use guaifenesin for fibromyalgia symptoms, and am on a special program to minimize exposure to salicylates and other chemicals from my diet, products used topically, and inhaled to try to continue to heal. Contact me at email@example.com for more info.
I used to love cooking with a gas stove, but had to have my gas disconnected a few years ago. Doctors who are aware of environmentally induced illnesses all advise against living in houses with gas.
I have heard that salicylates are a problem for more people these days. Do you have a blog Lisa?
Hi Linda – no blog, but if you would like a copy of my notes, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I used to have to wear a mask in my truck while I drove. One time one of those people who collect at the intersection for charity approached my truck. When I looked over at him he actually jumped back and threw his hands up! I don’t think people realize it is for pollution. They think, thanks to marketing, that you have some awful contagious disease and they don’t want to catch it. I think that’s the true reason people get unnerved when they see us.
Too many people are afraid of anyone who is different. Or they make assumptions… They haven’t been taught that we are all basically the same, and that we can ask questions when we don’t understand something…
Back when Toronto was hard hit by SARS (that’s where I lived), most people would assume our masks were because of SARS, even years later. I had many conversations in grocery store line-ups (back when I could still enter them and eat the foods they sold), and was happy that most people gave me space because of the mask, thinking I was contageous.
Their distance kept their toxic products further from me! :-)
When I said it was perfumes and scented products, almost everyone said they knew someone who got headaches or something from perfumes or cleaning products! And that was 10 years ago!
And yes, I wear a mask in the car AND have a car air purifier.
When I had to stop going IN buildings and asking people to come outside, some people were more accommodating than others.
I do my banking over the phone now, but when I was at the cabin near a small town, I called and explained the issue to them, asking if they could send someone outside for me with some $, so I wouldn’t have to go in and scare people… The small town folk were really good at accommodating me that way, more willing to meet me outside.
What kind of car air purifier do you have? I now wear my Wein personal air purifier in the car and it helps, but I would rather be able to plug it in to the socket. Also, in case everyone sees this, has anyone tried fasting to improve symptoms? I met a woman who uses the Feldenkrais method to manage her MCS. Has anyone else had experience with this?
My car air purifier is an Aireox 22 something that was purchased from NEEDS a few years ago. Aierox also makes in home machines.
I had tried an Amaircare car HEPA filter but didn’t tolerate the glue they used for installing the HEPA.
I don’t use those “personal” purifiers because of the ozone they emit. Also the electrostatic ones just move dust, not VOC’s (unless the VOCs are attached to the dust, like some that stick to soot particles, but that’s another story)
From what I have seen over the years, fasting would not be a good choice, as we (with MCS/ES) usually need more nutrients, not less.
It’s a good idea to get some nutritional status and other testing done. Some labs in the US do this. I don’t know if you need a Dr to request them or not, and the tests are probably done at your own expense.
For health care options, check out the MCS/ES page at the top of the blog. There are some suggestions and links there.
Pamela Reed Gibson has done research on what methods people with MCS have tried over the years and there’s a link to the abstract and you can get the PDF from that link. You can also check out her book “The MCS Survival Guide” and other research on her UNI website.
There are links at the MCS/ES page.
I wrote about my mask on my blog as well. http://allergictolifemybattle.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/why-is-that-lady-wearing-a-mask/
We have to learn that to do what we must do, the mask has to be on our faces. I have begun to become care less about the looks of others. I have discovered more just asking questions and then walking away and less really long stares.
Thanks for sharing your link and your story Kathryn!
I see more genuine curiosity and acceptance now too.
I actually had a group of 4 teenage boys (who thankfully were not saturated in AXE) ask me why I was wearing a mask and waiting outside a store a few months ago. There was no attitude from them, just a genuine desire to learn!
The need for a “mask” can help, but ultimately, we absorb air born chemicals directly through the skin and right into the blood stream. So, it’s counter productive at best, and only helps the mildly MCS.
Excellent point Nelson!
( I totally forgot because it has been so long)
We DO absorb the toxic chemicals through our skin and eyes, so the mask is useful for short term protection only, and is not a long term solution!
PLUS, it’s so important for people with MCS/ES to shower, wash hair, and put on safe, clean clothing when returning home, or the chemicals will continue to penetrate as well as causing cross-contamination IN the home.
I often have to wear my mask to take out my garbage, due to neighborhood laundry fumes in the air. Sometimes it’s so thick in fumes out there that I just can’t go out, even with the mask on.
Also, my mask doesn’t allow me to go INTO other buildings, but it does allow me to go outside sometimes, to drive 5 minutes away once every month or two, and to survive a repairman at home (I have to open the door and windows and air the place out too, hoping no-one is doing laundry in the area)
Ultimately, we all need clean air. The polluting has to stop!
I was reading Sandy L’s commented — it’s sad that doctor’s office don’t even get the need to wear the mask. I tried not wearing it to my doctors and almost passed out. The NP chased me out to the parking lot as I was trying to leave before I hit the floor. She was trying to tell me I had a test result we needed to discuss. I explained the whole MCS situation. I went back for my retest 6 months later. I was given the first appointment of the day and was the only patient there and still when the NP walked in and I was wearing my mask — she stopped in the doorway and asked, “Is the mask protecting me from you or you from me?” And so we had the MCS conversation again.
Perhaps you can send her a little info package, and if she questions it again, look for another health care provider who isn’t resistant to expanding their awareness?
I haven’t been able to go IN to see any Dr since 2006. They and their offices are all too toxic. I was fortunate to have a few home visits by a Dr in Toronto, but it wasn’t enough to meet my needs – those services weren’t accessible to me (and still aren’t). I’ve had 3 emergency dental extractions, and had to be taken there and back (once was to a dentist over 100 km away) and be on oxygen the whole time while there… When health care appointments take weeks or months to recover from, there’s a bigger problem…
It’s so bizarre that medical buildings and health CARE practitioners are by and large still so unaware of environmental and product impacts on health (despite a few unenforced fragrance-free policies here and there). Especially the alternative practitioners… But maybe they are coming from the same space the health food stores who think that modern incense is healthy are?
She was cool with listening to my needs but ignorant of the fact that the can of air freshener sitting on the table contained toxins that could kill me. I too have given up going to the doctor or dentist. The sickest I got was when I went to be officially diagnosed so I could receive my sick days. The doctor and staff were very aware and with all papers sent out they sent sheets stating no fragrances were allowed and yet when I walked into the waiting room there was sitting in the room with it on. I had to wait out side for my appointment. They had air purifiers on every where. The best I could say is the doctor got to see me react first hand. :D
Air “fresheners” or air purifiers?
Amazing how effectively advertising has brainwashed people, isn’t it? Also, how most people still believe that if it’s available to buy at the store, it must be safe to use… Yet look at cigarettes… In fact, it was the tobacco industry that taught all the other industries how to sow doubts in people’s minds whenever independent research showed their products causing any harm. And somewhere along the line, big money bought out the politicians so that regulations have been disappearing instead of increasing.
The fragrance industry said in a recent article that they have been lobbying the US government everyday for the last 5 years. What? Why is that even necessary if their products are safe?
The first doctor’s office had a can of air freshener. The NP said it hadn’t been sprayed in while. Not long enough for me. The second doctor once they realized someone was sitting in the waiting room who had perfume on (once they brought me in from standing outside the building) — they had air purifiers in the doctor’s office and waiting room.
I agree on the lobbying. And if the ingredients are safe why don’t they list the ingredients — all of the ingredients on the product. Same with GMOs. Imagine what we could do with all the money spent on lobbying to keep toxic products on the shelves — if instead we spent it on education or the environment or cleaning up the toxic mess they’ve made.
Thanks for the clarification as there’s a BIG difference between the two! (Some people still don’t seem to know this)
One (the “freshener”) pollutes the air, the other (purifier) filters some of the pollution out of the air.
And YES to your comments about labeling and the how the money gets used!!!!
I was told by my Mom that my doctors office has a fragrance free policy because one of their interns(or secretary) was getting headaches from scented people. i am hoping that since they put that there that my doctor will be a little more understanding. he has never seen me without my mask on. i have an appointment tomorrow so i guess i’ll see what it is like.
The last time i went there it was so bad i couldn’t walk out on my own or even get up out of the chair i was sitting in without assistance. i have a 3M respirator. big hulking thing, but it is such a helpful lifeline. i was wearing this mask while in the doctors office. my sister was with me and she had to speak for me because i was having a hard time talking. it seems the thing doesn’t help much at all, but i know if i took it off i would be in so much more trouble.
i definitely agree the masks are for short term exposure. there are some with full face guards, can you imagine the looks i’d get from people if i had one of those on? heh while almost falling several times on the way out of the doctors office so many people gave me looks and backed away. i have learned to ignore people and their looks from my last days working in retail with it on.
i wish we could ban all fragrances, of course the products would still have toxic chemicals but it would still at least be a step in the right direction. i at least wish health care spaces would be safer. though in the summer i had to go to the hospital because i passed out for no reason and chipped a tooth and split my lip open. i had to take my mask off in the emergency room and it was surprisingly not that bad in there.. of course it was super early in the morning and it was the weekend so there wasn’t a lot of people in there yet. but it was a pleasant surprise.
i am very happy for my mask. my quality of life would certainly be way less if i didn’t have it… sorry for the suuuper long post lol. once i get to talking/typing it usually always ends up long. heh heh
Thank you for taking the time to write Rachelle!
When we have to wear a full face respirator just to access basic healthcare, it seems to me that there’s a bigger problem with the world :/
I’m glad the hospital air was better for you, but sorry you had to go.
I really hope your appointment goes well! And that they enforce the policy!
I just remembered one of the last times I went to see a Dr I had never seen before. I waited outside (wearing my mask due to traffic and other area fumes), and had to get someone to help me stand up from my squat (leaning against the building wall) when it was my time to go in. I could not lift myself and was walking with a cane a lot at the time.
At one point inside I lifted my mask and said to the Dr “here, this is what I look like” and put it back on, and he removed his dark glasses and said “this is what I look like” (I think he was recovering from eye surgery or something) and we carried on… It was kind of funny…
I provided him with a folder of photocopies about MCS and relevant research for what I was seeing him about, and I got what I needed from him because he had the material to cover his ass with, should anyone question him about it (some Drs are harassed for dealing with MCS/ES). It went ok that way. But it still took a while for me to recover…
i gave my doctor all the paperwork from my visit to the Clinic in Toronto and he photocopied it all. haven’t been back there since he filled out my ODSP papers last year lol. i prefer to doctor myself.. just need some tests done so i can figure out whats going on with my system and i HAVE to go to the doctor for it or i wouldn’t be going at all.
yes the system needs to be changed or improved dramatically! isn’t that something we Canadians should be proud of? accessible healthcare for all? uh not nearly accessible enough.. we have human rights legislation but nothing else really…. kinda sucks…
but more and more people are waking up the the dangers of toxic chemicals like you said. oil mostly and GMO’s etc. i really hope it is a short jump for most people to recognize all toxic pollutants and see MCS clearly and help for change for us and themselves and their children and future generations..
I see signs of progress and a lot more awareness now.
Too many people are being affected.
It’s crazy that almost half the provincial budget here goes to health “care” and almost none to prevention (the oil. gas, coal and petrochemical industry that makes so many of us sick also make pharmaceuticals to treat the symptoms of many of the sicknesses – conflict of interest maybe? and they have got the system subsidizing them while the rest of us have to pay through the nose for healthy alternatives)
I am hoping the Ontario Center of Excellence in Environmental Health becomes a reality, along with all the proposals in their accompanying documents… which reminds me, I need to finish that blog post…
When I lived in Burlington, Vermont I stopped wearing a mask as people would come up to me and blow cigarette smoke in my face. There was a fierce battle going on in the city about the issue of public smoking. These smokers evidently interpreted my wearing a mask as some kind of threat to their freedom. This is the state of understanding there and in many places to a greater or lesser extent. Thank you for all your many contributions to creating greater awareness!
Wow! That was mean!
Has anyone tried this mask? http://www.buyactivatedcharcoal.com/product/pure_non-scents/face%20_masks. They also sell a cloth that I believe someone wrote about in their post. http://www.buyactivatedcharcoal.com/activated_carbon_cloth.
I would not be able to use this as it’s a synthetic material holding the carbon and my skin does not tolerate synthetics (even with a layer or two of cotton between, I’d need too many layers).
It looks similar to some inserts used in other masks, but for the mask, they say “specially impregnated with silver”, and there are concerns being raised about nano-materials, so I’d be reluctant to volunteer as a guinea pig in that regard, even if I did tolerate synthetics.
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