OF THE DEN BRABER MASK
is a mask that has been designed for chemically injured individuals by
an occupational health nurse, Sandra DenBraber (817-469-9626) or
This provides significantly reduced exposure and can enable you to
attend events or travel to places or use means of transportation that
would otherwise exacerbate your illness. Be aware that there are now
several "look-alike" masks, but unfortunately these masks were
not designed by an individual with occupational health/industrial
hygiene expertise, and do not provide an effective fit with the face. Correct
fit is essential to the mask's effectiveness. Activated charcoal
filter devices have long been used to reduce exposure to combustion
products and vapors of various petrochemical products. They are less
effective against chemicals such as ammonia, bleach, etc., which are not
made from petroleum. The DenBraber cloth mask has been developed because
individuals who are chemically injured do not tolerate the rubber used
for most masks.
THE MASK AND FILTER:
The mask is made of a cloth material. This can be cotton. For a minimal
additional charge, you can obtain a silk mask. This is much more
comfortable, easier to breathe through, and has cloth covering
over the elastic straps, avoiding the problem of elastic becoming caught
in the hair. Since the mask itself only needs to be replaced usually
after hundreds of uses, the extra minor investment is usually well worth
it. The filter inserts are made of activated charcoal and are well
tolerated by the vast majority of chemically sensitive individuals.
An occasional person may notice intolerance to the charcoal. If
this does occur, there are various types of charcoal that can be
utilized, and almost all persons can find a filter material that is
effective and well tolerated. Contact Ms. DenBraber for information on
how to test yourself for which filter materials you tolerate best.
TO USE THE MASK:
Insert the replaceable activated charcoal filter insert into the mask,
with the smaller section facing upward and the larger section downward.
The insert also is oval shaped and goes into the mask so that the longer
portion of the oval is horizontal. It is wise to practice putting the
mask on before you will need to use it. By doing this, if you
encounter an exposure, after the first breath of the pollutant, you will
be able to get the mask onto your face usually rapidly enough to avoid
further exposure. The mask has a metal nosepiece that faces upward. Put
the mask in front of your face with the opening toward your face. Put
the bottom strap over your head first. Then put the top strap over
second, so that the top strap crosses over the bottom strap in the back
of your head. This helps to hold the mask more securely in place. Now
adjust the metal band on the nosepiece so that it snugly but comfortably
fits your nose. Practice until you are able to put on the mask from
its container in well less than a minute. It is wise to periodically
re-practice if you do not use the mask on a frequent basis so that you
can put it on correctly and quickly in the event of an unplanned
exposure, such as roofing tar, road tarring or asphalt laying, diesel
Carry the mask with you in a purse or other convenient carrying
container. If you wish, you can also have an extra one in the car, also
in a proper container. This way you will be able to use it for
unanticipated exposures. If you experience irritation of the eyes, nose,
etc., consider putting on the mask not only to reduce symptoms, but also
to avoid the process of becoming more sensitized. Researchers now feel
that neural (brain) sensitization is a major mechanism for reactions.
Nerve endings that are actually extensions of the brain go down into the
eyes, face, nose, and upper respiratory system. There is no barrier
between the nose and these nerve extensions from the brain. Chemicals
can enter the brain directly from the nose. Thus, reducing
unnecessary exposure can help reduce the process of sensitization, and
avoid your body changing so that your reactions become longer and/or
mask is one of several control measures to reduce exposure when you are
out of the home and should be used as a backup when reasonable
accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an
effective car filter, and other controls are not adequate. See
Environmental Control Plan this website.
You may experience some shyness about using a mask, and your
decision of when and where to use a mask should be your decision alone.
It may help to recall that while you can recognize people, the mask
covers enough of your face that people will not be able to recognize who
you are with the mask on. Some individuals feel more comfortable wearing
the mask after they are already in an enclosed situation, such as in a
car, train, bus, plane, etc., while others prefer to or need to use it
more widely. These are individual decisions that you alone should make.
OF THE MASK: It
is essential to remember that activated charcoal will pick
up pollutants whether or not you are wearing the mask. This
means that it is necessary to keep the mask stored in an airtight
container at all times when you are not wearing it.
The easiest to use container for many individuals is a small
glass jar with a wide mouth. Then the mask can be conveniently stuffed
into the jar and quickly removed by unscrewing the lid. DO NOT store in
plastic as activated charcoal filter picks up plastic off gassing and
loses protection during storage.
OF THE MASK:
It is wise to wash the cloth portion (never the charcoal filter) after
each use to avoid moisture with mold build up, charcoal staining, etc.
Let it soak in water with a small amount of gentle soap you tolerate,
soak to rinse, and drip dry.
Activated charcoal will absorb pollutants onto its surface until the
surface areas are relatively filled, after which time it will no longer
pick up pollutants and then is not effective. It must then be changed.
If you have used a particular filter for more intense exposures, the
filter will last for a few hours, whereas it will last for more hours if
your exposures were less severe.
you have a normal or adequate sense of smell, take notice of what
exposures you can smell when the filter is completely new and has just
been removed from the cellophane container. For example, in situations
of light to medium traffic, you should not be able to smell any
significant vehicle exhaust except for possibly relatively faint or
light detection of diesel when near buses or trucks. Initially take
notice of which odors you can and cannot detect when the filter is new.
As soon as you begin to notice that you can smell chemical odors that
you could not smell when the filter was new, it is time to replace the
filter. For relatively intense exposures, a rule of thumb is
approximately up to 4 to 6 hours, with average exposure 6 to 8 hours,
and with lighter exposures approximately 10 hours. Always have at least
one extra new filter insert so that you will always have protection.