Tuesday, 14 February 2012


As a painting tutor, particularly a tutor who works with pastels primarily, the thorny question of whether it is "necessary" to wear a dust mask, would often crop up.   It is not a straightforward question to answer......it may not be "necessary", but for many people, probably myself included, it would be "advisable".  that was always my advice, when asked.

Here are the facts:

Essentially, there are two fundamental characteristics of the pastel medium that make it dangerous to inhale: the small particle size of the dust and the toxicity of the pigments. Pastel dust consists of extremely fine particles of both pigments and binders. When the dust is inhaled, some particles will deposit in the upper respiratory system. But more harmfully, a significant portion of the pastel dust particles, especially those from pigments, are small enough to get deep into the lungs’ air sacs (alveoli), where they may remain indefinitely.

Given that I have worked with pastels for more than 30 years, the damage may all ready have been done. But as I have also started recently to work with enamels on copper surfaces, and enamels are finely ground GLASS and therefore must be vastly more dangerous to inhale than pastel dust, I decided to look into the idea of wearing a mask.

I tried various masks, and felt claustrophobic in most of them.  Then, I read about the TOTOBOBO mask, used by other pastellists.  I now own one of these masks, and use it regularly.  I thought I would mention it here, and give you the link to the website where you can view a variety of pictures, you can even download a mask simulator which will give you an idea whether the mask would fit your face or not, and you can read a variety of reviews.

Here is a picture of a pastel painter wearing her mask:

The Totobobo is a lightweight REUSABLE transparent mask, which is durable and easily cleaned.  It has two replaceable filters, which allow for minimum breathing resistance, and for a pastellist working on a regular basis, the filters can be replaced every two weeks.   You can wear it with a three-point strap around your head, or there is the useful alternative of loops which hook over your ears.  You can buy a mask which fits over your mouth and nose, or a mask which fits just over your mouth, useful for those who worry that they might feel claustrophobic in a mask but would still like some protection.

the screenshot below shows the different types available in the small cartoons under the cyclist!

There are two different filters, a matrix filter and 2 different grades of particulate filter - 94% and 96%
Here is a link to the company website:  they send their products world-wide, and you can order direct from
Here is a terrific link to various demos of the mask and loads of comprehensive info about how to wear it

I think it is great product, and I recommend it.

1 comment:

  1. Good article....most masks have made me feel claustrophobic too. Will check this out. Thanks Jackie!


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