Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Face Masks Print E-mail

Those of us severely affected by multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) often have no option but to resort to wearing face masks containing carbon filters to protect us from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the form of perfume, fragranced products, tobacco smoke, diesel fumes and many other sources.

For me wearing such a mask was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because for the first time since developing severe chemical sensitivities I could once again be around people and venture out from the safe haven of my chemical-free home. A curse because clearly, a carbon filter face mask is not the height of fashion and draws much unwanted attention when out in public. A hard thing to deal with when you are a touch on the shy and self-concious side as I am!

Matthew Hogg, multiple chemical sensitivity sufferer, wearing carbon face mask 2003 

Me in the summer of 2003 in Bishop Monkton, near Harrogate, England.

When I first developed MCS I was living at home with my parents and sister. Having first become sensitive to perfume I quickly found that exposure to any VOC triggered my symptoms which became severe. These symptoms included dizziness, weakness, headache, racing/pounding heart, fatigue and flu-like feelings. I was often left feeling like I had flu for days after an exposure. Luckily my dad owned an apartment out in the countryside about 45 minutes away from the family home and allowed me to live there while the authorities found me a place to live (I was on full sickness benefits due to also suffering from ME/CFS). The picture above shows me wearing a carbon filter face mask as I walked my dog through the fields in Bishop Monkton. I felt loads better living by myself and being able to avoid all triggers for my symptoms while in the apartment but outside I required the mask. Even as little as the exhaust from a single passing vehicle or the slightest exposure to a fellow dog walker's deodorant would trigger my symptoms and often leave me suffering for days.

 

Me with family, Christmas 2003

Me with family, Christmas 2003

Wearing a carbon filter face mask can be a big hindrence. You lose virtuall all sense of smell, it gets very hot and sweaty in there, and you have to raise the volume of your voice a good few notches to enable people to hear you. Me being me however I was not going to let the issue of the mask prevent me from enjoying Christmas Dinner with the works prepared by my grandma. For that I was prepared to drop the mask and suffer the consequences!

 

Playing Playstation with friends, Christmas 2003

Playing Playstation with friends, Christmas 2003

I count myself very lucky to have a bunch of friends who despite not having seen a lot of me for a number of years had no problem accepting 'the mask'. They were not embarrassed to be seen with me or anything like that and it was basically a non-issue to them. They did however derive much pleasure from the opportunity it gave them to bless me with new nicknames! A few that spring to mind are 'the surgeon', 'Shredder' (villian from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), and 'Sub-Zero' (from the video game Mortal Kombat).

 

I am not a person to cause a fuss and certainly aren't that keen on drawing attention to myself so wearing a face mask was a real struggle for me but I had no option. I was not delusional or attention seeking, the simple fact is I was made very ill by exposure to chemicals in the air. I would not have worn a mask unless it was absolutely necessary. I even wore the mask to doctors appointments knowing full well they would assume I was not all there, mentally speaking. First to my anger, and then amusement, this turned out to be the case as my official medical records repeatedly state "has beliefs about chemical sensitivity". I like to think however that I made them reconsider things a little by coming across as reasonably eloquent and intelligent while maintaining my position that MCS is a real, physical illness (with research studies to back me up!)

So although wearing a face mask was certainly not easy for me it meant I could have some kind of social life again and leave my home whenever I wished. Without them I would have remained trapped at home with no physical contact with anybody and would no doubt have been a lot more depressed and despairing than I already was! I consider avoiding triggering chemicals strictly to be a major factor in my recovery from MCS. I have now not had a reaction to chemicals for 3 years (touch wood) apart from the odd twinge and no longer need a mask. I still maintain my home as chemical-free as possible but can tolerate anything when out and about. Research conducted my Professor Pamela Gibson also reveals that the majority of MCS patients have found the same. Strict avoidance of triggers for an extended period allows them to recover tolerance at least to some degree.

For those reading this and suffering badly from chemical sensitivities I purchased my masks from http://www.icanbreathe.com/ and would certainly recommend them. I'm sure there are others that are as effective but this was the first place I tried and the masks worked great.

I would love to hear from others who have used face masks. If you have please leave a comment letting us know whether they helped and the responses you received from people.

 Best of health to all.

 

 

 

 

About: Matthew Hogg ("Maff")
Diagnosed with M.E./chronic fatigue syndrome aged only 11 years old and subsequently associated illnesses including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Despite his own struggles he has constantly sought to educate and support others suffering from such "invisible illnesses" through his website, The Environmental Illness Resource. He fully recovered from MCS using his own approach and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutritional Health.

 

 

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  • Thanks Matt for sharing how these face masks help you. I am new to this website and new to blogging. I wanted to connect with others like myself who are trying to educate others on what chemical sensitivities are and how it impacts our lives. While I was attending cosmetology school, I became sick. After much testing, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 47. I wasn't sure if I could continue in the cosmetology industry. I did some Internet searches and ended up connecting with a lady, Ashley Smith (www.dtox.org) from Canada, who is a pioneer in the least-toxic salon industry. Ashley is trying to change state regulations regarding MCS and salons and having alternative programs available to cosmetology students in being trained to learn least-toxic product services. She mentored me through school and encouraged me to open a salon in my home that would be a safe place for those with chemical sensitivities and auto-immune diseases. I have since done that, PureHues Hair Salon (www.purehues.com) and have also started a company, Organic Elements of Nature (www.oenskincare.com) where I have developed an organic skincare collection that can be purchased with essential oils or without depending on the customer's needs. My desire is to reach those who are not serviced by the cosmetic and salon industry due to their selfishness of not wanting to take the time and money to make this happen for those of us out here who need them. I hope to have my online store up in the next 2 weeks so people can order the skincare products. My salon is currently open and ready to service those in the Arizona area.

    I haven't had to use a mask but at times have not been taken seriously when I have mentioned that a smell (whether it is a candle, perfume worn by someone, etc.)is making me sick and I need to leave. Now, after 3 years of educating the people that are in my circle of influence, they are more conscientious about chemical sensitivities, pure smells vs synthetic and toxic smells. Thanks for letting me share :)

    Like 0 Short URL:
  • Guest - babama

    Have your symptoms lessoned at all? are you doing anything to de-tox your system to desensitize it? If you have had any success, let me know, as I live with a CS individual who wears masks.

    Like 0 Short URL:
  • Hi babama,

    I am virtually free of chemical sensitivity reactions now. I attribute this to a combination of strict avoidance of chemical triggers (including wearing a mask) for a period of a few years along with various treatments. The most important of these include improving detoxification through whatever means possible which essentially means raising glutathione and sulphate/sulfate levels in the body. I recommend non-denatured whey or Lifewave glutathione patches for glutathione and epsom salts baths/foot baths to for sulphate/sulfate. Making sure hormones and neurotransmitters are balanced is also vital. I have found DHEA (and adrenal hormone available as a nutritional supplement in the US) to be particularly important and effective. This is backed up by a large survey of MCS patients carried out by Professor Pam Gibson which rated DHEA and chemical avoidance as the most effective treatments.

    Like 0 Short URL:
  • Guest - Claire

    Matt,
    May I ask how long you had MCS before you started wearing masks? It's my understanding there are stages in this illness and if you make the kind of changes you did in the first stage, then there is hope for the kind of recovery your experienced. However, it is my understanding if you are pass the first stage, even avoidance doesn't get your life back. I'd be interested to know how long you had it before you moved to the country and started wearing the mask? Thanks

    Like 0 Short URL:
  • Hi Claire,

    I started developing chemical sensitivities in November 2002 immediately following surgery involving a general anaesthetic. It was only a few things at that triggered symptoms at first, mainly perfume, cigarette smoke, and diesel exhaust. Over a period of a few months the list of things I reacted to increased steadily before snowballing to include all conventional cleaning, laundry and personal care products...as well as things I could not identify as I was overwhelmed by that stage and symptoms were constant. I believe I began wearing the face mask the following June just after having moved out of my parent's house to live alone in the country.

    You ask a very good question but I do feel that given the right approach to treatment those with long-standing untreated MCS could also recover to the point where they can live an essentially "normal" life again. Much research suggests MCS is a neurological condition and the brain has an amazing capacity to "rewire" itself to regain function. Other theories of MCS pathophysiology focus on impaired detoxification and a variety of other biochemical pathways (see Prof. Martin Pall's work) and each of these can theoretically be targeted by treatments available today. There is hope for all!

    Best wishes.

    Like 0 Short URL:
  • Guest - Michellina Van loder

    Hi Maff

    I just created a post about the good and bad elements of wearing a mask http://the-labyrinth.com/2012/08/07/a-masked-duality/

    I've linked back to this post also.

    Cheers

    Miche

    Like 0 Short URL:
  • Guest - Jantastic

    I have MCS and it continues to get worse with time. Purchased two air cleaners from Austin Air for chemical removal and became allergy to them within a few months. I WILL NEVER BUY anything form AUSTIN AIR again. They were no help in customer support. Anyways, I now believe that the carbon in the cleaners caused me to become ill so now have no idea as to what I can use for a mask. Some people like the lab takes blood when needed on my deck. Foot docotr now coming to my home but my family doctor cannot, so I have to go into office but sometimes even if I am first patient there are others in same room and I can have problems. Does anyone have any ideas as what I can do for a mask? My blood pressure goes up when ever I think about having to go into hospital for a day within the year.

    Like 0 Short URL:
  • Guest - Diane Pepkowski

    I have had mcs for 15 years now, and am just finally starting to recover from it, so it is possible to recover even after having it a long time. I attribute my recovery to three things. I start taking Glutathionine powder, I started taking sulfur powder (MSM), and I started using Activated Carbon Felt material around my house, making masks out of it and scarfs, bed spreads, curtains, etc. I could never use the store bought masks because the outer shells always made me sick, but now I make my own mask with this fabric and my health is improving more than it ever has. I can finally go out to stores and restaurants and not be stuck in my home anymore. Oh, and I also had all my mercury amalgams removed but cannot really said that made a difference.

    Like 0 Short URL:
Comments (9)Add Comment
yayaba08
...
written by Carol, August 09, 2008
Thanks Matt for sharing how these face masks help you. I am new to this website and new to blogging. I wanted to connect with others like myself who are trying to educate others on what chemical sensitivities are and how it impacts our lives. While I was attending cosmetology school, I became sick. After much testing, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 47. I wasn't sure if I could continue in the cosmetology industry. I did some Internet searches and ended up connecting with a lady, Ashley Smith (www.dtox.org) from Canada, who is a pioneer in the least-toxic salon industry. Ashley is trying to change state regulations regarding MCS and salons and having alternative programs available to cosmetology students in being trained to learn least-toxic product services. She mentored me through school and encouraged me to open a salon in my home that would be a safe place for those with chemical sensitivities and auto-immune diseases. I have since done that, PureHues Hair Salon (www.purehues.com) and have also started a company, Organic Elements of Nature (www.oenskincare.com) where I have developed an organic skincare collection that can be purchased with essential oils or without depending on the customer's needs. My desire is to reach those who are not serviced by the cosmetic and salon industry due to their selfishness of not wanting to take the time and money to make this happen for those of us out here who need them. I hope to have my online store up in the next 2 weeks so people can order the skincare products. My salon is currently open and ready to service those in the Arizona area.

I haven't had to use a mask but at times have not been taken seriously when I have mentioned that a smell (whether it is a candle, perfume worn by someone, etc.)is making me sick and I need to leave. Now, after 3 years of educating the people that are in my circle of influence, they are more conscientious about chemical sensitivities, pure smells vs synthetic and toxic smells. Thanks for letting me share smilies/smiley.gif
0
...
written by babama, September 30, 2008
Have your symptoms lessoned at all? are you doing anything to de-tox your system to desensitize it? If you have had any success, let me know, as I live with a CS individual who wears masks.
Maff
...
written by Matthew Hogg, October 02, 2008
Hi babama,

I am virtually free of chemical sensitivity reactions now. I attribute this to a combination of strict avoidance of chemical triggers (including wearing a mask) for a period of a few years along with various treatments. The most important of these include improving detoxification through whatever means possible which essentially means raising glutathione and sulphate/sulfate levels in the body. I recommend non-denatured whey or Lifewave glutathione patches for glutathione and epsom salts baths/foot baths to for sulphate/sulfate. Making sure hormones and neurotransmitters are balanced is also vital. I have found DHEA (and adrenal hormone available as a nutritional supplement in the US) to be particularly important and effective. This is backed up by a large survey of MCS patients carried out by Professor Pam Gibson which rated DHEA and chemical avoidance as the most effective treatments.
0
...
written by Claire, January 29, 2011
Matt,
May I ask how long you had MCS before you started wearing masks? It's my understanding there are stages in this illness and if you make the kind of changes you did in the first stage, then there is hope for the kind of recovery your experienced. However, it is my understanding if you are pass the first stage, even avoidance doesn't get your life back. I'd be interested to know how long you had it before you moved to the country and started wearing the mask? Thanks
Maff
...
written by Matthew Hogg, January 29, 2011
Hi Claire,

I started developing chemical sensitivities in November 2002 immediately following surgery involving a general anaesthetic. It was only a few things at that triggered symptoms at first, mainly perfume, cigarette smoke, and diesel exhaust. Over a period of a few months the list of things I reacted to increased steadily before snowballing to include all conventional cleaning, laundry and personal care products...as well as things I could not identify as I was overwhelmed by that stage and symptoms were constant. I believe I began wearing the face mask the following June just after having moved out of my parent's house to live alone in the country.

You ask a very good question but I do feel that given the right approach to treatment those with long-standing untreated MCS could also recover to the point where they can live an essentially "normal" life again. Much research suggests MCS is a neurological condition and the brain has an amazing capacity to "rewire" itself to regain function. Other theories of MCS pathophysiology focus on impaired detoxification and a variety of other biochemical pathways (see Prof. Martin Pall's work) and each of these can theoretically be targeted by treatments available today. There is hope for all!

Best wishes.
0
...
written by Michellina Van loder, August 07, 2012
Hi Maff

I just created a post about the good and bad elements of wearing a mask http://the-labyrinth.com/2012/...d-duality/

I've linked back to this post also.

Cheers

Miche
0
...
written by Jantastic, June 12, 2013
I have MCS and it continues to get worse with time. Purchased two air cleaners from Austin Air for chemical removal and became allergy to them within a few months. I WILL NEVER BUY anything form AUSTIN AIR again. They were no help in customer support. Anyways, I now believe that the carbon in the cleaners caused me to become ill so now have no idea as to what I can use for a mask. Some people like the lab takes blood when needed on my deck. Foot docotr now coming to my home but my family doctor cannot, so I have to go into office but sometimes even if I am first patient there are others in same room and I can have problems. Does anyone have any ideas as what I can do for a mask? My blood pressure goes up when ever I think about having to go into hospital for a day within the year.
0
...
written by Diane Pepkowski, July 15, 2013
I have had mcs for 15 years now, and am just finally starting to recover from it, so it is possible to recover even after having it a long time. I attribute my recovery to three things. I start taking Glutathionine powder, I started taking sulfur powder (MSM), and I started using Activated Carbon Felt material around my house, making masks out of it and scarfs, bed spreads, curtains, etc. I could never use the store bought masks because the outer shells always made me sick, but now I make my own mask with this fabric and my health is improving more than it ever has. I can finally go out to stores and restaurants and not be stuck in my home anymore. Oh, and I also had all my mercury amalgams removed but cannot really said that made a difference.
0
...
written by Zz, March 24, 2014
hello . Nice to read I am not alone. I wear a mask almost everywhere. I originally got masks from Achoo Allergy .com in the states. I found I needed to layer the charcoal face masks at least up to six to prevent smells. I also need to wear one cooking most of the time. I also bought a REspro mask from Mountain Equipment Co-op. it is good but again I need to put multiple layers of charcoal filters. Nothing eliminates perfume smells totally unless I wear one of the industrial masks. Life has been ultra confining and people don't want to stand too close in line anywhere thinking I have some awful disease. Also if anyone has any ideas how to wear one of these swimming at the pool. I wore mine during aquafitness...worked ok but there has to be something better.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 February 2013 14:08