Pollution in The Press: An Update On My Mask Fundraiser

Winter wonderland?
Winter wonderland, or nuclear wasteland?

UPDATE, MARCH 15: this project is now on hold (details here)

Wow, that wasn’t very fun, was it? We just finished a miserable six days of AQI over 300. But it certainly was the perfect backdrop to my new campaign to test air pollution masks, and I’ve been busy all week with interviews with CBS News, the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, South China Morning Post, and Quartz.

Now it’s almost a week into my fundraising campaign and I’d like to give everyone a quick update:

  • First, this is my personal campaign, a worried father’s tilting-at-windmills quixotic (obsessive?) quest to get evidence-based data on which pollution masks can help my Alex, myself, my patients and their children — everyone, everywhere who lives in polluted environments. This has nothing to do with my hospital, and I have no sponsorship or official backings from them or anyone else, including mask companies.
  • No mask company has any control over what I will test or publish. Good results, flunking results — everything will be published here on my blog.
  • I make no money from this project. Any extra money would go directly to the wonderful Roundabout charity in Shunyi. Any extra masks also will go to them. I wanted to also donate the tested masks, but apparently they are destroyed from the test due to a big hole punched in them, so we have to throw them away afterwards.
  •  I understand that people may be concerned about a private donation and not knowing where their money is going. To help reassure people, and for 100% full disclosure, everyone can “follow the money” at my online Excel spreadsheet here http://1drv.ms/1jNoq9k
  • A few companies have already nicely promised to donate masks for testing. I hope others as well can help.
  • As of today, I have raised over $1,000 in funds from the crowdfunding website rally.org as well as from Alipay donations (plus the donated masks). That’s a great start — but I still have a long way to go in fundraising as I need almost $10,000 to test all the masks I’d like to test.
  • The fit-testing company, FROST, in sunny California has nicely offered a discounted price of $25 per mask test. I plan to test over 180 masks, so 25 x180 = $4,500 just for testing.
  • Rally.org is one of the many crowdfunding websites, a revolutionary advance for anyone to raise money for projects. But this convenience comes at a cost, and Rally.org takes 5.75% of transactions. That’s actually lower than the other major crowdfunding sites, which is why I chose them. If you want your money to be even more efficient, you could use Alipay or Paypal directly to me (email me below for instructions).

I know that many of you are excited about this project and would love to see this data — but there won’t be any data if I can’t raise the funds. To contribute and show support, please click here to go to Rally.org and contribute via credit card (cards are accepted from all countries). If you want to use Alipay 支付宝, please transfer to my account under my email account at email. Anyone with questions about this campaign can also contact me at the same email address.
Here’s today’s CBS This Morning video:


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Photography: richardsaintcyr.com

5 thoughts on “Pollution in The Press: An Update On My Mask Fundraiser”

  1. Love the idea, and am giving what I can. This would be a great thing to know.

    I did a little interesting N=1 study with air filters and air masks. It’s obviously of limited value, but it was significant to me.

    Two weeks ago, I made the very serious mistake of trying to do my weekly Superslow-type weight lifting when the AQI was over 100. (If we hadn’t been willing to go when it was over 100, we just couldn’t have gone at all for at least 3 weeks. We’ve learned: we won’t be going at all unless it’s under 100.) Now, if you don’t know, this weight lifting protocol involves lifting as slowly as possible, but never taking the load off the muscle, until muscle failure-i.e. you are pushing but you just can’t make it move again. My roommate and I keep track of our time till muscle failure and weight every week, and we were shocked that week to find ourselves reaching muscle failure in half the time. We were also very dizzy and lightheaded, which had not happened before.
    
I realized the pollution was probably the issue. It was about 200 that time of day, and had been worse in the days before. In researching the issue, I discovered that Beijing’s oxygen levels can go from 21% (normal for Earth at sea level) to 15% on a bad air pollution day. 15% is similar to what you get in the Andes or Tibetan mountains–the kind of difference that gives you altitude sickness.

    I was quite curious about this, so I ordered an oximeter. I got a fingertip one that an emergency room doc recommended, saying he had tested it for a whole day against the professional one in their emergency room and found it very accurate.

    I tested it today.

    First, I walked about briskly inside for five minutes. I can’t tell you my AQI indoors. I can only tell you that I have two Alen Air UV375 units that had been running on maximum all morning, with two-month-old air filters. My apartment is 89sqm and extremely airtight against the outside–though it does get some draft from the rest of the building.

    After five minutes of brisk walking in the filtered air, my pulse was 95 and my blood oxygen level 100%.

    I rested about two minutes then went outside.

    The AQI at the time, according to the US Embassy’s site, was 319. In my area the Chinese monitoring site (located very close to my home) said 258.

    First, I wore my Respro mask with a brand new Techno filter. I walked briskly for five minutes. After the five minutes my pulse was 118 and my blood oxygen level 98%.

    I rested quietly for another two minutes, then took off my mask.

    I walked briskly for another five minutes without any mask. After those five minutes, my pulse had gone to 138 and my blood oxygen level was 95%.

    I put my mask back on and walked home, not briskly, for about five minutes or so. I have a small wait for the elevator and a 10 story ride up. In the hallway before returning to the filtered air, I checked again. My pulse had gone down to 91 and my blood oxygen was at 98%.

    I came inside, removed my coat, sat down at my desk in the filtered air and waited one minute.

    After one minute, my blood oxygen level was back to 100% and my pulse was 81.

    Just for kicks, I checked my blood pressure at that time and five minutes later. That’s about the best I can do to indicate my general level of fitness. One minute in the house it was 114/71. Five minutes in it was 112/68 and my pulse was 67. I’m a 38-year-old woman.

    This was interesting to me. I definitely felt more comfortable wearing the mask, and it seemed that both after brisk walking and after strolling it kept my blood oxygen % quite a bit better than no mask, though not as good as indoor filtered air. Without the mask on I wanted to breath shallowly. Deeper breaths hurt deep in my lungs, though for this little test I made a conscious effort to breathe at the same speed and depth throughout. Outside after I’d done the test, I breathed as I wanted to: short, shallow, fast breaths. As soon as I put the mask back on, I noted my breathing spontaneously got slower and deeper.

    For me, anyway, the Respro is making a noticeable difference.

    1. Hi Miriam, that’s really interesting! Sounds like my kind of research. I’m glad to hear your Respro may work well, and I can’t wait to get more fit tests on them, along with the others. I suppose all of those findings make sense as well, physiologically. It’s also nice to know the Respro resistance isn’t bad and you feel you can exercise well with little resistance?

  2. I suppose I should also mention it isn’t normal for me to be that winded after just three, five-minute walks. I don’t think the 138bpm and 95% can be explained by “oh, she’s in poor shape.” On that one clear day we had last week I walked 3.5 miles by a river-not on level ground-and was not at all winded or even breathing hard.

  3. Hi Dr. Saint Cyr,

    Thank you for your tremendous contribution in the field of air quality and public health! I am a public health professional living in New Delhi and have sent numerous people to your site for information on air quality and health. Finally I decided to set up an informational website including information more specific to Delhi as well. If you have the time and inclination to check it out you will see your website it often sited and linked! http://www.delhiair.org

    I have tried various ways to get in touch with you personally (linked in/ FB) , to tell you about this project and thank you for being such a prolific and accessible resource. As you probably know, awareness of this issue is just beginning in Delhi. You probably also know noone here wears masks and few have filters… Its a pretty scary situation. My hope for my website is just to offer information from trusted sources to people who are interested. If you have the time to contact me, I would love your feedback.

    Best regards,
    Genevieve Chase

    1. Hi Genevieve, thanks for appreciating my efforts! Yes, this year we’ve all started to see interesting comparisons between India and China’s pollution, and I am quite surprised that China seems to be far ahead in terms of awareness and transparency. Please feel free to reuse or quote articles of mine for your new website.

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