June 28th, 2020


1) It seems that N95's have formaldehyde in them. When I wear one, I can't breath both because of the tight seal and because of the antimicrobial whether formaldehyde or other. I don't chart in the patient home because I can't think straight until I leave the home and take off my mask to breath oxygenated non-anti-microbial air. My skin used to get inflamed and burnt like a sun burn even on my cheeks and neck that didn't directly touch the N95. My eyes, my throat all burned and itched.... until I outgassed my masks before wearing them (airing out in the heat of direct sunshine for 3 days). I can't imagine what the skin and cognition of Covid 19 frontline nurses must be like!

I predict an increase in respiratory and cancer disorders in essential workers in the future, particularly in nurses as most likely to wear an N95 for the most number of hours per day.

Manufacturers of surgical and N95 masks need to stop using antimicrobials. It's one thing to use an antimicrobial on something that touches our skin. We need to be allowed to breath clean air especially when that air is so difficult to breath in through a mask.

2) The same quandary that the Magnet program attempts to address takes on new significance during Covid 19: Nurses need vocal power in hospitals and other systems. It is wrong that anybody would be written up or fired for wearing a mask to protect themselves, their families, their patients. I saw this kind of power imbalance (nurses unable to advocate for themselves for fear of retribution or loss of job) before Covid 19. My heart hurts for health care workers who have been penalized for making evidence-based pre-Covid-CDC-recommended PPE choices. These workers should feel supported in going to work each day under adverse circumstances where they make themselves more exposed than the average person to higher levels of Covid virus than most of us will ever experience. They should not feel the moral distress of choosing whether to go to work without adequate PPE versus whether to wear what they believe is right and possibly face retribution versus whether to quit work at a time when health care workers are more in demand than even before Covid. My heart hurts for my acute care colleagues. The same dynamics, similar PPE conversations, similar top-down specific directives, happen in my hospice workplace though the stakes are much lower.

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Comments (2)

Comments (2)

Purchasing decisions are difficult and made that much more so by the shortage of available PPE. Choices are limited. Masks can vary a great deal by company. I have used several different kinds and I know what you mean. Some have a real chemical smell. Not all do. I hope this situation improves soon so that your company can have a choice in where it buys from and can preview products before purchasing them. We never expected it to be like this, wearing them day after day for hours. Such a nightmare.

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Yes, they aren't supposed to be worn for 12 hour shifts, just in a patient's room. I'm grateful to be in a job that allows me to take breaks from the N95 between patients. I feel so badly for our colleagues who wonder what they'll get assigned when they get to work, wonder what they'll take home to their families, wonder if employment is worth the added stress, and then also have to breath through the formaldehyde-laden N95 12 hours a day. It is such a night mare, I agree.