EiR Blog

A Blog For Those Affected By Environmental And Invisible Illnesses Written By Fellow Survivors

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Face Masks

Posted by Posted on in EirBlog
  • Font size: Larger Smaller
  • Hits: 49598
  • Print



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. Since that time I have learned of many alternatives and believe U-Mask Anti-Pollution Masks are a great option as they reportedly outperform even N95 and N99 respirators while remaining lightweight, and some would say even, fashionable!  

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.


Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Face MasksDynamic Neural Retraining Program (DNRS)


Rate this blog entry:



Are you a #Doctor, #Therapist or other Healthcare Professional bravely and compassionately working to help those affected by #invisibleillness?

EiR (Ed: Matthew Hogg) has the PERFECT WEBSITE DOMAIN for you - InvisibleIllnessClinic.com

GoDaddy has valued this domain at $784 USD...
But we would happily accept offers of $400-$500 - so grab it while you can!

Simply visit...
  • Guest - jhon

    This is good information about the environment. Thanks for sharing this article, this content is very significant for me and I really appreciate your work.

    Comment last edited on about 3 years ago by Maff
  • Guest - Jamie

    This is a good blog about the environment. This is a really good topic for discussion. Thanks for sharing a wonderful blog.

    Comment last edited on about 3 years ago by Maff
  • Guest - Deeyan

    Jacksonville, FL, USA

    I have not been diagnosed as MCD however every symptom I have always brings me to MCS page.. I do have to wear a mask to go outside. Some days I can get by with a thinner mask. Other days I need a thicker mask or to double up. I am on a budget because everything I have to buy to prevent reactions seems to be more expensive than other none eco friendly brands. Anyways that is a different story. I just wanted to share some info and basically ask if anyone else has tried the nose filters available now?. It's a semi discrete filter that you put in your nose. It holds filters of different thickness levels. So far I'm a bit impressed but hope that more work is put into the design as it does tend to rub against the part of my nose that separates the nostrils.

  • Guest - Chris

    Oakland, CA, USA

    An alternative to face masks, SKOTTI Scarves have 100% activated carbon filters: www.skottiusa.com
    - no straps or ear loops
    - apply instantly when needed

    Happy to answer any questions: support@skottiusa.com

  • Guest - Lisa

    London, UK

    Hi, it was good to come across a post about wearing a mask. Thank you for sharing your experience. I've had MCS for three years with airborne fragrances from laundry products, air fresheners and cleaning products being the main problem. Coming across the Vespro mask 10 months ago when my reaction got worse has made all the difference to being able to being able to out. I'm not that self conscious about wearing it because it's given me back some freedom but I am aware of how people can react to me wearing it. Masks can cause a barrier for easy communication sometimes but the benefits of being able to go out and about far outweigh the negatives.

  • Guest - Ken

    Norwalk, CT, USA

    Hi my wife has MCS for many years it has been a real battle for her she has tried nose filters some masks and I got her a special filter that was designed for people with MCS. but she could not take the way it smelled same with the masks and nose filters. I was wondering if you could give me some advice on the best face mask to use along with any hints how to make my house a safe as I can for her
    Ken J

  • Guest - Julie Collins

    I live in Traverse City Michigan and have had mcs for approximately 3 years. The last few days have been the hardest. Are the any test I can have done that would show why my body struggles getting rid of these toxins. I have filed twice for disability and denied both times. Unsure where to live right now I have even tried sleeping outside on our deck, in the snowy cold. All of our neighbors at the condos we live in use dangerous products , which often make their way up to our place. Are there any non-toxic tents and masks that really work. I have an organic cotton mask, with coconut charcoal , which I purchased from Janice's, but now I buy them directly from the lady who makes them. The only thing is the most volatile chemicals get through it. What to do ??:)

  • 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.

    Comment last edited on about 8 years ago by Maff
  • 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.

    Comment last edited on about 8 years ago by Maff
  • 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 :)

    Comment last edited on about 8 years ago by Maff

Leave your comments

Post comment as a guest

0 Character restriction
Your text should be more than 25 characters
Your comments are subjected to administrator's moderation.
terms and condition.