There are a lot of concerns about the air we breath and part of a solid prepping plan is reducing the contaminants that we are exposed to either every single day or in an emergency.
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The question is, do these masks work?
EnviroLenze Breathing Masks have a ton of background information. After reading through it and sorting out the marketing I have the feeling that these are a product that will fit nicely into the prepping community.
They are made for people who are sensitive to chemical orders and in conjunction with the rise in sick-building-syndrome and for people are who are concerned about breathing in smog and other types of pollution. This is an answer to a need that arose out of cities with extremely high pollution rates and often we see this in Asian countries.
That trend has spread to the United States more so during flu season, but also in schools, office buildings, and throughout the general population. In larger cities around the country, it is not uncommon to run into people with masks on their face.
The problem is that many of these masks do not work to prevent the inhalation of chemicals or germs, though they may help prevent the breathing in of large particles of dirt, soot, or other airborne dangers.
Sick Building Syndrome
Sick-Building-Syndrome (SBS) is not new. It has been around since the 1970’s and is thought to have begun with the massive energy crisis that occurred back in 1973. That crisis changed the way that we build residential buildings.
As a means of reducing energy loss, buildings were designed with a lower air-exchange. In short, the air stagnated and trapped within the stagnant air was a build-up of VOC’s – Volatile Organic Compounds or Toxins. Toxins are toxins and while they affect us differently they are still toxic. As such, people began to have increased health issues that were eventually tied to the inhalation of VOCs.
In the modern world, construction components use glues and resins to make wood and material stronger and cheaper. The problem is that as a room or building heats and cools, those glues and resins become airborne and we breathe them into our lungs where they cause an oxidative response.
In severe situations, VOCs can destroy lung tissue and cause diseases such as COPD or asthma or exacerbate those already existing conditions.
Thus, we have two situations where masks are used – For outdoor pollution and indoor pollution. The problem is that most disposable masks do not stop chemicals. Many are designed to stop large particulate matter and little else. Here is a closer look at some of those issues.
1. Poor fit
General surgical masks do not prevent gaps around the parameter of the mask. Air, like water, will flow through the path of least resistance so a gap becomes a primary port by which air is exchanged. If you think about the purpose of a surgical mask and the job it was designed to do, you see that these are not two-way protection.
They were designed to prevent the exhaled particulate and germs from leaving the doctor and staff and finding their way into surgical wounds. A surgery suite is already close to being sterile so there is little danger of breathing in toxins or germs.
That is why these commonly seen disposable surgical masks do not fit perfectly. They fit snugly, but air – whether inhaled or exhaled seeps in through the gaps. Yet, in the modern world, people are using these masks to stop incoming pollution which is a job the masks were not designed to perform.
This is all about how near you are to the source of the pollution.
This has more to do with the prevention of airborne disease such as the flu or the common cold, but for particulate toxins such as smoke or chemicals, the ratio of toxin to air is also important. As discussed above, masks, where gapping occurs around where they make contact with your face, are an issue.
3. The Toxin’s Intensity or Severity of Air Quality
Inside, poor air quality can be a constant. Few masks will protect you from high levels of toxicity or daily exposure to poor air quality. For those situations, you need a professional-grade mask.
The problem here is that most masks approach clean air as a mechanical problem. The fiber of the mask is supposed to trap whatever is in the air so that you do not breath it into your body. Well, under those rules only the large particles would be trapped.
Things like chlorine gas or fumes from glues or even gasoline would pass through the fiber and into your lungs. If you were in a city with lots of soot, the soot would likely be trapped – all but the smallest particles which would find their way into your lungs.
What I like about the EnviroKlenz® mask is that it is not only a mechanical trap but also a chemical sink. The mask uses a combination of zinc oxide, magnesium oxide, and titanium dioxide to break down volatiles before we inhale them. That is how the mask differs from many other masks on the market.
The company sent one for me to try and below is my experience and impression of this mask.
Fit and Comfort –
The fit and comfort of the mask is good. It has two elastic straps that when positioned correctly hold the mask securely to your face. I was impressed. There is a metal strip along the nasal area so that you can adjust the fit to the contours of your face.
I found normal breathing caused my glasses to steam up, which is an indication that the fit is not great. After messing around with the metal strip and readjusting the elastic straps the steaming stop and all was well. The other thing to note here is that for the weeks that I wore the mask I did not experience any itching or irritation.
Odor Control –
On a scale of 1-10 I give this mask an 8. It has done a really good job of blocking smells like mold and mildew and even the fuel odors from power tools. It’s fall here, and we have just come out of a horrible fire season.
- For outdoor chores, the mask excelled at stopping allergens and odors.
- Indoors, the mask did well too. It blocked the heavy perfume from the cat litter and took down most household cleaners including bleach.
I live in the heart of the Northern California fire zone and was surrounded by fire this late winter and early fall. The mask did well to filter out most of the smoke smell, but some did get through. I will say that I do not consider the level of smoke in the air here to be “normal use” as it was bad.
The fire, which caused all this smoke, was some 10 miles away and dubbed the Pocket Fire. Though some of the smoke was also from the Tubbs fire, too. The pocket fire burned 17,357 acres. The Tubbs fire, which was just as close burned some 36,807 acres and took down parts of some of the major cities in the area. In the photo, the burning through the trees is not fire, but the setting sun.
Of note: Wood smoke is one of the things that I am highly allergic too and I usually get a sinus infection as soon as everyone starts burning their fireplaces. Not this year. Even with the catastrophic number of wildfires around me and I think the masked helped with that too.
I have worn the masks through the ten days of intense smoke and following the fires for all the yard chores I have had to do. That was a lot of weed eating, mowing, and leaf blowing. I have also worn the mask for most household chores such as cleaning.
I feel as though the mask has been put through it. It has held up like a champ. There is a little bit of fraying around the edge and I snagged one of the elastic bands on my glasses and caused a run. The strap still works, but its days are numbered.
The mask still works too, though with the weakened strap it does not work as well as it did. It is also not just a mechanical device, but a chemical one. So, like the box of baking soda in the fridge, it has a shelf life.
Will the Mask Fit into Prepping?
Absolutely. On the manufacturer’s site, they are priced at $49.99 on sale for a three-pack here. I would estimate that under normal wear, you could probably use the same mask for a whole month, potentially longer. I see this as more of a product that would go into your bug-out bag and emergency prep kit.
If you are concerned about local air quality or VOCs, then you could wear the mask on a daily basis for around $200 a year. That is not bad if you have allergies or asthma or you are concerned about long-term exposure to environmental contaminants.
Design Issues and Negatives
One thing I did not like is that the elastic straps are glued in place. I’d much rather see them sewn is since one of the things the product does is reduces odor from glues. Also, adjusters for the straps would be keen (IMO) right now the only option you have for making the bands smaller is to tie a knot in them.
Beard Technology – Beards and masks often have issues and if you have a beard the mask might not sit flush to your face. A small strip of foam would likely solve that problem (IMO.)
Those were the two negatives – if you can call them that – which I had about the mask.
Overall, I give the mask an solid B+. While I was very happy with it there is some room for improvement. This Breathing Mask is a product that should fit nicely into many prepping strategies. I plan to add one to my car bag, Bug-out bag and to my toolkit in my emergency supply unit.
Special BDS Discount: As a reminder, there is a BDS exclusive 20% off discount code here using code “bds20” at checkout!
About the Author: David is an active prepper and freelance writer. He lives in rural Northern California in the shadow of an active volcano. He hunts and fishes as a means of providing. He brings a science background to his writing and discusses botany, biology, geology, and weather as they apply to living, growing your own food, and surviving. He is a master gardener and understands food production, storage, and preserving. He lives five miles down a single-lane road and he deals with power outages, wildfires, earthquakes, flooding, and crazy pot growers, raiders, medical emergencies, law enforcement and the potential of that volcano.
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