Daily use mask for VOCs?

Hi all. I’m looking to get some help with a tricky problem of mine. I have Ideopathic Environmental Intolerance (IEI), aka Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), which means I experience physiological reactions to VOCs and other substances commonly found in things such as cleaning products, air fresheners, perfumes, certain plastics - anything that “off-gasses”. I even have reactions to some masks (such as the 3M Aura, sadly), due to the materials used in manufacturing them. This syndrome greatly affects my life and my ability to work.

The substances that trigger my symptoms are not usually blocked by N95 or KN95 respirators. Sometimes such respirators help, but sometimes not, I don’t really get why - maybe it has to do with the particle size of the substance causing the reaction, I don’t know. Such substances are also not removed by HEPA or MERV filters. Charcoal filters, and filters including minerals like titanium dioxide, zeolite, and zinc oxide seem to help, but these aren’t found in respirators.

To my knowledge, the only type of masks that would block these things are the kinds used by professionals - P100 and the like. However these masks are not practical for everyday use.

Can anyone recommend a consumer level mask that will help block such substances/gases/VOCs? I think a lot of air fresheners are oils, though I don’t know for sure. Air fresheners, perfumes, and cleaning products seem to be the main culprits. Even something that blocks some of this stuff would be helpful.

Thank you!!

I struggle badly with air fresheners etc too so i found these LUPA FFP3 NR D Active Carbon Mask | The Face Mask Store - i don’t know if they actually work as they don’t fit my face comfortably but worth a try. I am told that the quantity of carbon is important for blocking things so I don’t know if they have enough carbon in them to provide protection for long. I also use an air purifier with a carbon filter layer, which helps.

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Also this paper has some info about some of the ingredients in air fresheners (pretty terrifying!) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360132316304334 - manufacturers are legally protected from having to disclose all their ingredients unfortunately.

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Unfortunately, for the best protection, you will need a half-face respirator with organic gas/vapour cartridges. Most large half-face respirator manufacturers offer these cartridges in some of their respirators (3M, Honeywell, Moldex, etc.). However, as you mentioned, they aren’t ideal for daily wear, and it looks like they emit VOCs themselves (VOC emissions from particle filtering half masks – methods, risks and need for further action - PMC)!

However, if we are talking about nuisance levels, there are a few other options that might work for you. To add to @HarryLeWhippet’s suggestion, I would also recommend looking into these:

  1. https://www.3m.com/3M/en_LB/p/d/b00038056/
  2. 3M 9542 (can’t find a good link for this respirator outside of SEA)
  3. https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/p/d/v000057514/

There also appear to be quite a few Australian options. If they’re not relevant to you, they might help other readers, so I will include them here:

  1. Disposable P2 Mask with Active Carbon Filter – BIG Safety
  2. https://www.safepak.com.au/p2cv-respirator-with-caron-filter-valve-box-10.html
  3. SequenceSafe Respirator + Carbon Filter - 10 Pack - Shapers Manufacturers Co

Regarding keywords to search for, look for ‘nuisance’ odour/vapour respirators. These tend to be R95 or above, and they’re probably the best bet for your situation. I hope this helps!

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Thank you so much to both of you for these amazing resources. I didn’t know about masks for “nuisance vapors” or that masks with charcoal existed - I think these would provide some protection at least. Anything is better than nothing!! @Ethan, I’m really grateful for your diligence, both with this particular topic and the site in general. It’s such a big help.

I forgot to add that I’m located in the US… I’m having trouble finding those 3M ones for some reason. But I’d consider ordering overseas for something that helped me with this pesky issue.

@HarryLeWhippet , that is a very useful article. Sobering indeed, but also quite heartening to me to read those statistics about people’s views on air fresheners. I had no idea it was so common for people to suffer reactions to them, or that so many people would consider not using them anymore if they knew how unhealthy they are. I’m optimistic that this situation will gradually improve, especially since indoor air quality is a growing concern worldwide. But for now it’s extremely vexing.

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I know there is at least one brand of those tiny personal air purifiers (the HEPA ones, not ionizer ones) that has a charcoal filter… maybe it would be of some benefit worn around the neck? Not sure if those things work at all, though.

You’re welcome. I’m glad the answer was helpful! I did a brief search on Amazon (which I assume is the easiest for shipping) and came across a few masks/respirators with some form of carbon/nuisance odour filter.

It is worth noting that I haven’t tried any of these (other than the 3M 8246), and they’re all cup-style, so they likely won’t provide the best seal. However, fit is personal, and you’ll need to try them yourself to see if they work. I’m sure there are more too - I just searched ‘nuisance odour respirator’ on Amazon and got those as the top results (that are from trusted brands and NIOSH certified).

I’m not too sure on this. I’ve heard that some of the personal air purifiers are effective, but I have no idea about the carbon/charcoal filter aspect. @HarryLeWhippet actually created an interesting topic about one of these portable purifiers the other day.