When air is polluted both indoors and out, when people use fragrances and other products with toxic chemicals, when we are made ill and disabled by the pollutants, then we can’t wait for better regulations to take effect, we need to do something to protect our health now.
Sometimes we can buy masks that work for us, especially if we tolerate synthetic materials, but sometimes making our own is the only way. When we make our own, we can use safe-for-us fabrics and even coordinate them to our outfits (if we’re lucky enough to have safe-to-wear outfits).
Some people use scarves as masks. You can sew a pouch on the inside to hold filtering material of your choice. You can find some safe(r) textile sources here if you are looking for new materials, otherwise it’s great to recycle some old clothes!
Here’s a great pattern and instructions for making your own masks
(as seen below).
As you see in her photo, the masks can be made in different sizes and fun fabrics.
In some cases, it’s sufficient to have a few layers of washable fabric for filtering, other times activated carbon may be a better option.
One place you can buy carbon impregnated fabrics is from Daliya at Nirvana Safe Haven (nontoxic.com). I have no financial interest (NFI), but have bought a few things from her in the past. Daliya has been providing materials to the MCS community for many years.
Some masks are made to use a replaceable (or refillable) activated carbon chunk filter, but I don’t have a scanner to scan my pattern copy now. I’ll add it when I can.
If you do make such a pouch to insert in your mask, please make sure you use only virgin activated carbon, and without potassium permanganate or potassium iodide added. You can buy small quantities of chunky carbon from Foust in the US.
Due to the serious pollution that manufacturing of our toxic, disposable stuff there causes, we can look to Asia for all kinds of creative mask designs. Here we experience the indoor air pollution that the stuff causes, in addition to harmful fragrance chemicals everywhere. We may as well have some fun when we’re being polluted to death, as these (and other) masks can only offer us a bit of protection, perhaps while we run errands. Ultimately, we need regulations that give us the right to a healthy environment.
Wishing you all safe, clean air to breathe.
NOTE that DIY masks are better than no protection at all, but will only offer minimal protection. For serious protection, we need respirators with proper filters for whatever pollutants are in the air we need to breathe (and absorb through our skin).
Please see this post from the CDC on NIOSH-approved respirators, which must filter out a minimum of 95% to be approved. Some filter only particulate, others filter oils and gases too. Keep in mind that smoke and many other pollution events have both particulates and toxic gases.
May our air be clean, safe, and healthy to breathe!
Edited to include some links to lightweight masks that can be bought, and instructions for a DIY air purifier.
Some of the lighter types of masks and sources:
Instructions for a simple, relatively inexpensive air purifier:
If you add some cut-to-size carbon prefilter material (like the stuff from Honeywell) between the fan and the filter, it will remove some VOCs too.