Cyndi out and about in her North Safety Respirator MaskNorth Safety Half Face Respirator Mask and Filters
The mask works. It is made for industrial applications and, if you have the right size and you wear it correctly, it will filter out perfume, air freshener, cigarette smoke, formaldehyde, and other volatile chemicals.
Painter's style masks and charcoal-lined scarfs do not stop chemicals from reaching your respiratory system. They only reduce the exposure. North Safety masks are widely considered to be the very best you can buy. Nothing gets through. I have been in freshly painted rooms, airplane bathrooms, and through the perfume sections of a department store and not smelled a thing.
This mask has its limitations. It will not protect you from chemical exposures through your eyes and skin so don't expect it to allow you to spend extended periods in highly toxic environments you normally can not tolerate. Nor will it protect you from later exposures to chemicals that linger on your hair, skin, or clothing.
Most importantly, this mask will not protect you if you are not wearing it! This sounds obvious but I've seen a lot of people carry the mask in their laps or hands and using it for a couple breaths only after smelling something they react to. Or they put it on with the top strap only. Unless you are holding it in place with your hand, the mask seal will not be secure unless you use your rear strap. Also, using the rear strap makes wearing the mask a lot more comfortable.
If you are moving around, the mask gets pretty uncomfortable after a couple of hours. It can also get hard to breathe after that long, especially if you are asthmatic or otherwise have trouble in low oxygen environments.
I recently used this mask on a cross-country trip. I wore it for two 7 hour flights (each with a change of planes) with oxygen supplied to me via nasal canula. It worked great! The bridge of my nose wasn't sore as sometimes happens and I had no difficulty breathing. Under the right conditions, longer use of this mask can be very helpful.
The masks are sized for large men; most women (even those very overweight) wear a small. Women with large bone structures in their faces will take a medium. Average to small men should take a small as well. Available sizes are small, medium, and large. There is no extra-small. There is only one filter size.
The biggest drawback to the North Safety masks is that the silicon stinks when you first get it. It will fade over time. When the mask is a year or more old you shouldn't be able to smell it at all.
Tikvah washes all its masks for your comfort. We use a baking soda and water paste to scrub the mask and then soak it in the same paste for 24 hours. Then the masks are washed with plain water and completely covered in damp baking soda for at least 2 weeks. This reduces the smell to where most people can tolerate it. Our baking soda is ordinary Arm & Hammer and our water is filtered.
The masks last for a long time. I've had mine for 3 years and it shows no sign of wear. The filters last for about 6 months, depending on how you use it. I keep my mask unwrapped in an open flap of my purse at all times and I use it several times a week. I change the filters every 6 months. When you can start smelling chemicals in the air or when the filters have a smell of their own, it's time to change them. I've found that heavy pesticide exposures can "fill up" a filter.
The filters screw in and out and take about 20 seconds to change. They are made of hard unbendable plastic that doesn't seem to outgas at all. The mask is silicone. The straps are hard flexible plastic and elastic. We wash them once in baking soda. They pop on and off with ease so you can use different straps if you react to elastic.
Tikvah - 735 Gossage Avenue, Petaluma, CA 94952. 707-775-4475 (10am-8pm PDT only) - firstname.lastname@example.org