**what are the real health risks of the playa???***

Share your views on the policies, philosophies, and spirit of Burning Man.

**what are the real health risks of the playa???***

Postby jennifer » Sun Sep 07, 2003 2:43 pm

It seems like more people than usual got sick at our camp this year. I suspect the dust storms that we worked in for three days contributed to shortness of breath and upon return from the playa--major sinus headaches with stomach aches. One of our group is out of the hospital after 7 days and still on oxygen for bacterial pneumonia. Would people be as sick if it was a dust storm made up of soil and not alkaline playa?

I have been looking for information about the infamously rumored radioactivity of the playa and have found nothing except for one article that reports Gerlach's water was tested and found to have 5 times the acceptable levels of urianium. I also understand that the alkaline playa is just as dangerous to your health as a more dangerously sounding acid.

Someone told me that they heard a public service announcement on Black Rock Radio encouraging parents to put dust masks on children because of the radioactivity of the dust particles of the playa.

I find it rather irresponsible that the BM organization hasn't made any real mention of the *real* health dangers (aside from dehydration, heat stroke, and cracked feet) on BM.com, while spending pages and pages on protecting the playa from trash, burn scars, and pee! (Don't get me wrong--I'm all for kind treatment to the earth, but what about us!?)

Has anyone else had similar experiences? Does anyone know anything about the health effects of the playa on a human body?
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Postby Isotopia » Sun Sep 07, 2003 3:13 pm

I find it rather irresponsible that the BM organization hasn't made any real mention of the *real* health dangers (aside from dehydration, heat stroke, and cracked feet) on BM.com, while spending pages and pages on protecting the playa from trash, burn scars, and pee! (Don't get me wrong--I'm all for kind treatment to the earth, but what about us!?)


Read

the

back

of

your

ticket.

So, tell us what are the 'real' health risks of the playa are. If you know something the rest of us don't then I think the 'real' irresponsibilty lies in you not sharing it with us or the ORG.

Otherwise, maybe you need to bridle your assumptions just because you're referencing your theories based on a few data points of one or two people out of a population of 30+ thousand who're bound to experience some sort of malady during the event.

FYI, the uranium in question is actually x200 the recommeded suggested by the EPA in drinking water standards. Contrary to what many folks believe, the uranium is NOT associated with any nuke testing done in northern Nevada rather it is a natural component of the granite the alkali playa is composed of. That and the meta-volcanic areas (Calico mountains, and parts of the Selenite Range) which border the playa. Other heavy metals abound as well - magnesium, arsnic, copper.

If it's such a problem.....
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Postby Capthayes » Sun Sep 07, 2003 3:52 pm

Have you considered all the sharing of utensils, bottles, plates, and the general lack of sanitary standards at most camps? Last year a bunch of friends of mine came down with Strep. Want to try stay healthy, eat out of your own steralized bags, use a new paper cup for every cocktail, and you might not get sick. Want to have fun, get some sleep to keep your immune system up, minmize your alchohol use-I never drink durring the day, have a positive attitude and take a chance.
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Postby jennifer » Sun Sep 07, 2003 4:23 pm

Hey "Isotopia", thanks so much for your constructive reply!

I think most people would see that I am trying to initiate a *dialogue* with the community to understand the health effects of the playa on the human body. If Black Rock Radio felt it was important to broadcast a PSA about the dangers of radioactive playa dust on a child's small lungs, then the Burning Man (.COM) organization obviously knows *something* about the health dangers of the playa.

You should know that you are incorrect in *your* assumption that I have based my *hypothesis* (not theory) on one or two individuals. I am basing my hypothesis on about a dozen individuals who arrived a week before the event began in order to work who became ill. Someone else suggested it was the sharing of utensils, which I doubt as we were being fed by the commissary. I have also received e-mails from others (as a response to a posting on craigslist.ORG) with similar health symptoms--(notably sinus headache and lingering stomach ache), not to mention my pharmacist who has also heard of these complaints from returning burners. So, while the sinus headache *is* in my head, the reality of a critical mass of people with playa-related health ailments is *not.*

I am not suggesting that there is anything as grand as a massive cover-up going on with the Burning Man organization. I am merely pointing out a subject area that has been poorly addressed to date and attempting to flesh out experiences and facts. Just trying to keep a balance here.

Isotopia wrote:FYI, the uranium in question is actually x200 the recommeded suggested by the EPA in drinking water standards. Contrary to what many folks believe, the uranium is NOT associated with any nuke testing done in northern Nevada rather it is a natural component of the granite the alkali playa is composed of. That and the meta-volcanic areas (Calico mountains, and parts of the Selenite Range) which border the playa. Other heavy metals abound as well - magnesium, arsnic, copper.


Now *that* "Isotopia" is the sort of *useful* information I was hoping some kind individual would enlighten me with. Thank You!

Namaste.
- Jennifer
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Postby TestesInSac » Sun Sep 07, 2003 4:58 pm

Aiyiyi. I wonder how much more radiation you get from your cell phone and the monitor you're looking at than the uranium in the playa?

Truth of the matter? The alkalinity of the dust and its desiccative properties are greater hazards than the heavy metals. The radiation most folks accept from the sun at 4000ft are more carcinogenic than anything in the playa.

200x EPA guidelines for uranium in Gerlach water? Drink bottled water, like they do in a lot of European cities whose canalized rivers have been dead for centuries.

The point is, Burning Man is a choice, and choices should be preceeded by homework.
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Postby PJ » Sun Sep 07, 2003 5:10 pm

The only real menace to health on the Playa is blue balls.
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Postby TestesInSac » Sun Sep 07, 2003 5:17 pm

PJ wrote:The only real menace to health on the Playa is blue balls.


Not for me, I've sworn off blueberry cobbler.
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Postby TazGrl » Sun Sep 07, 2003 5:45 pm

Alkaline dust in lungs and up the nose = bad no matter how you look at it, radioactive or not. Look what it does to your skin and imagine your tender moist lungs being subjected to that (I still have "playa lung" in a minor way...hacking up dustballs). Wear a dust mask, wear a bandana over your face, wear goggles and for God's sake don't go get any other <ahem> "nosy" type stuff mixed up with playa dust and snort it! :wink:

Honestly though...the longer you stay out on the playa, the more your body gets all kinds of stressed out and nature plays havoc. And all the alcohol and drug (mostly the harsher stuff) activity that goes on...pleeeeez. That's just asking for trouble. There are just some things you don't do in that kind of environment, or if you feel the need to do these things, understand the way they affect your body while you're at home in your "natural" environment is only a *fraction* of what it's going to do to you in the playa environment.

Unfortunately, unless the commissary used a bleach solution or one of those nifty pressure-cooker type washing machines (and even those aren't fool-proof), germs are not going to be totally eliminated. Having worked in the public school system and required to take classes in contagions, I'd be leery about using questionably-clean utensils that were previously used by someone I didn't know not to be sick or getting sick. I won't go near them if they even *think* they have strep - I'm one of those people who gets strep just hearing about it...

Christ - now I'm going to have to go gargle with goldenseal so I don't get strep... :roll:
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Postby stu » Sun Sep 07, 2003 5:45 pm

notably sinus headache and lingering stomach ache


Nothing to do with taking too many nasally inhaled stimulants in order to dance all week long?

Regarding other health risks: never leave camp without your cup. It goes over well with the bars you visit when you whip it out.
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Postby Jane Eric » Sun Sep 07, 2003 5:51 pm

It goes over well with the bars you visit when you whip it out.


Heehee.


For the record, I went the whole week without a dustmask, using cloth to cover my face if I got stuck out in one and I'm not sick in the least. Hope that doesn't skew your sampling of 12.
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Postby RebA! » Sun Sep 07, 2003 5:54 pm

I feel fine as well.. but I just wanted everyone to know I love her use of *** in her post. Makes me feel all **warm** and fuzzy. ***
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Postby TawnyGnosis » Sun Sep 07, 2003 6:21 pm

there are health risks that I've noticed on the playa, namely the drying of tissues from the dry air and dust.

On thursday or about that time of the week, I experienced a massive nosebleed that wouldn't end for half an hour. I felt weak and dehydrated, very light headed. Also "other areas" of my body seemed to be dried out and I experienced some bleeding that was I wasn't due for.

How do you hydrate those parts of your body? Curious minds want to know.
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Postby Ivy » Sun Sep 07, 2003 6:26 pm

How do you hydrate those parts of your body?


Drink more water. I'm not being sarcastic. Drink a truckload of it, then drink some more. I live a very *ahem* dehydrated lifestyle in the "real" world, so I'm always trying to hydrate myself.

Oh, and you might look into bying stock in Astroglide.
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Postby Isotopia » Sun Sep 07, 2003 6:55 pm

The tip that children should wear face masks makes sense to me. I suspect that it has to do more with their propensity for asmatic problems due to the dust being a respiratory irritant than any radioactivity associated with the playa dust. Still, its unfortunate that the announcement about the uranium was thrown in because it was ill-informed and scientifically inaccurate and only serves to make some people freak about a subject that many folks just don't understand.

The marginally detectable amounts of uranium in the soil and water are not hazardous per se - at least not as far as a chronic dose one might expect to receive in BRC over the course of a week. It'd take a cumulative whole-body dose on the order of hundreds - if not thousands of years to receive a dose equal to anything approaching systemic changes that would give rise to any cancers or other maladies.

Further, dust masks do NOTHING to protect against one of the primary problems associated with uranium. Namely the daughter products radon and thoron which are created as uranium isotopes (primarily U238) decay. As was pointed out earlier, the altitude of BRC (almost 4000' above sea level) also contributes to a larger exposure to background radiation (cosmic sources) than most of us see at sea level. On average however, the exposure during on week on the playa is minimal and still only represents a very, very small fraction of the exposure one would get ith a dental x-ray.

If you really wanna freak about exposure to radiation, consider the folks who went up to the playa with Coleman lanterns using the old style globes which many people still have laying around in their garages. These which are thorium based and can give a whopper of a dose (airborne) to anyone standing near them such as an enclosed tented area.

I'm sure the myriad ailments - primarily respiratory - people are now showing from being on the playa are no doubt because of the highly alkali nature of the playa dust. It's a pretty heavy duty desicant and robs moisture out of damn near everything it comes into contact with. What I'm not ready to believe is that contrary to almost 50+ years of study is that the ailents are related to radioisotopes naturally occuring in the dust - especially at the levels which have been documented in this part of the country. Nor do I subscribe to the idea that the BM org or anyone else has a responsibility to 'warn' anyone about the potentially adverse health effects of something which occurs naturally in the environment. As a courtesy they might put more of an emphasis on it but that's about the extent of it as far as I see it.
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Postby PetsUntilEaten » Sun Sep 07, 2003 7:20 pm

well well -

I got something icky that left me unable to stand (even to shower of a few minutes) & throwing up even water for all day saturday & part of sunday. Two members of a friends camp had had the same thing a day before. I thought it was dehydration (even though I'd been drinking water) - but I changed my mind.

Sorry - totally unrelated to playa/dust born illness.

Jen - I will say that anytime you mention "BMorg" & "what they should do" - you're gonna get your hand slapped round here - and rightly so 90% of the time. Open discussion is fine, but "what is BMorg going to do about ______." is another matter. Discuss the issue. Make a plan. Find your own solution & share it. Leave the BMorg alone - they have enough crap to deal with.

Anyone else get the bug I got?
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Postby Kinetic » Sun Sep 07, 2003 7:29 pm

I don't have anything like Pets described but I do have a nasty headache that I can't shake even now. I also got a bad case of playa foot this year that is just now healing up....almost a week later.

I heard the PSA about the dust on BMIR and it caught my attention at the time but after all I did since leaving the event I had forgotten about it...until now. I was curious about the radioactivity...the Nevada Test Site is South and East of the playa and prevailing winds would not carry that radioactivity that far North. I have studied up on nuclear tests over the years and know of other tests that happened further North off the NTS. Even those plumes of radiation wouldn't hit the playa. Unless there is some truth to that ship explosion story many years back in San Francisco Bay, there are no sources of manmade radiation to be found that I can find. But.....the BM ORG ran the PSA so there has to be something to it....this is a good question to look into once I get unpacked and the playa dust off everthing....(if that is possible).
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Postby bradDaDad » Sun Sep 07, 2003 7:46 pm

Just to add some data. I know someone who had a nose bleed and I was belching up some playa flavored substance for a couple of hours. I don't know what it means, it just happened.

BTW, are there any dust masks better than the lousey pieces of crap from the hardware store. My guess is that the Japanese might have something better. I'll search google and return an answer if I find one.
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Postby Isotopia » Sun Sep 07, 2003 7:51 pm

But.....the BM ORG ran the PSA so there has to be something to it....


You're kidding us. Right?
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Um, yeah, right.

Postby L:Gringo » Sun Sep 07, 2003 8:13 pm

:idea:
Not only read the back of your ticket, but do do some sort of critical thinking here. If members of your camp got sick, and it's all the same thing, then stop sharing utensils, pipes, candy, body parts, etc.

I came back pretty healthy. My wife has a bit of playa lung, but there was a lot of dust this year, 'specially on our egress Sunday. And our two year old daughter (today's her birthday) has been just fine. She simply refused to wear a mask.

It is an inhospitable environment. You may get ill. You can even get hospitalized. It's dangerous. Cope or read about it next year and watch the burn on the webcast.

:::L:Gringo out...
We all will burn someday...
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Postby Lydia Love » Sun Sep 07, 2003 8:33 pm

I always come back feeling *healtier*

Probably because I drink so much more water and get so much more exercise on the playa.

I practically ignore my feet and never get playa-foot

I only put on a mask when the dust gets completly intolerable - which only happened for about 10 min on sunday this year

fuck. maybe I'm acidic enough a person the alkaline dust just restores me to "human normal"
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Health Risk..The Real Culprit !!!

Postby bschlong » Sun Sep 07, 2003 8:40 pm

If there are indeed health risk associated with the alkali playa dust, lets put the blame for exposure squarely where it belongs. Namely on the Feds, Bureau of Land Management and the current Bush administration.

How dare they grant a permit to the Burning Man LLC, when they know that tens of thousands of us will attend ; as our guardians they should have investigated and know full well that we are being exposed to serious health risk.

In fact, perhaps they DO know, and fake making the LLC jump throug hoops every year to get their permit, while they are snickering inside 'cause they
are guessing that a few thousand of us left wing wacko's will die off, stacking the voteing popualtion in the current administrations favor ! Talk about Weapons of Mass Destruction !!!

Anyone see some secret memo's floating around or something !?
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Postby PJ » Sun Sep 07, 2003 8:57 pm

Ivy wrote:Oh, and you might look into buying stock in Astroglide.



Sorry, it's a privately-held company. There's a "privates" joke in there somewhere.

http://www.astroglide.com/about.asp

Poke around their website and sign-up for free samples. Don't forget to tell 'em that, for next year, you want them to market it in a 55-gallon "Theme Camp" container.
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Speaking of children

Postby Stormy » Sun Sep 07, 2003 9:13 pm

I'm also doubting any secret plot involving radiation, however, why the hell do people take children out to a place that's dirty, unsanitary and has a lot of adult themed entertainment? :roll: I love children. I've worked in public education for seven years. But I would never take a child to the playa. While the health risks are questionable, the psychological ones aren't. Based on years of formal training and firsthand experience with thousands of children, I have found that children actuallly need firm boundaries to feel safe and secure. There are things they just don't want to know yet. Of course it's their job to test the boundaries to be sure that they're in place, but children won't love you for giving them too much freedom before they're ready for it. :(
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Postby Julie » Sun Sep 07, 2003 9:32 pm

My friend and camp-mate has had a nasty stomach ailment since he's been back. It started on Monday, the day we were driving back from the burn, and has gotten progressively worse as the week has gone on. Then on Friday he left work early and couldn't keep any food down on Friday or Saturday. His stomach is a little better today but if it's not completely gone by tomorrow, he's going straight to the doctor.

I'm convinced his illness has to do with the unsanitary conditions of our camp kitchen, possibly he caught some food-borne illness (although I wouldn't think a food-borne illness would last this long). We camped with about 15 others and a lot of dirty pans sat for hours before being washed. On top of the fact that we washed our pots with lukewarm or cold water didn't make for a good situation by any means! One of us was just asking to get sick!

I'll definitely be demanding people to be more dilligent about cleanliness regarding food preperation next year. It's so important, especially in the hot weather.

Plastic utensils and paper plates are not only convenient, but are always sanitary.
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Postby Ivy » Sun Sep 07, 2003 9:53 pm

Sorry, it's a privately-held company.


That's too bad. I go though so much of it that nowadays just the smell will turn me on. Quite Pavlovian, really.
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Postby L:Gringo » Sun Sep 07, 2003 9:58 pm

why the hell do people take children out to a place that's dirty, unsanitary and has a lot of adult themed entertainment


Dirty? Soap is made from the same sort of stuff that makes up the playa...

Unsanitary? Well, the portapotties maybe... but our camp was pretty sanitary.

Adult themed? Okay, you got me there. But you have no idea the positive reaction we received when showing our daughter the playa. Yes, there is stuff that goes on that kids shouldn't see. But that's up to the parents to help the kids through. Now, most kids (well, maybe none) are gonna be hanging around JiffyLube at 2:00 a.m. or be checking out the sites at any of the multitudinous S&M camps.

Unfortunately, I had plenty to get over in my own life of NOT being shown things like Burning Man or any thing not mainstream. I didn't get to the playa until I was in my thirties. It's important to share your life -- all your life, good, bad, and ugly -- with your children.

Will I bring her when she's 10? 12? 14? Probably not. There is too much risk to her safety -- not because of something she might see, but of something she might be convinced to do. But she should know early on that life is not always as it seems and it is okay, or even preferable (sp?) to be different.

Chillin' with my little one who loved the art, the camps (especially Lawn Game Camp and Bunny Camp (hi neighbors)), and the people...

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We all will burn someday...
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Re: Speaking of children

Postby Guest » Sun Sep 07, 2003 10:02 pm

Stormy wrote:I'm also doubting any secret plot involving radiation, however, why the hell do people take children out to a place that's dirty, unsanitary and has a lot of adult themed entertainment? :roll: I love children. I've worked in public education for seven years. But I would never take a child to the playa. While the health risks are questionable, the psychological ones aren't. Based on years of formal training and firsthand experience with thousands of children, I have found that children actuallly need firm boundaries to feel safe and secure. There are things they just don't want to know yet. Of course it's their job to test the boundaries to be sure that they're in place, but children won't love you for giving them too much freedom before they're ready for it. :(


THREADDRIFT! INCOMING!!!!!

Stormy writes: "I have found that children actuallly need firm boundaries to feel safe and secure."

I've been to the playa for six years. Two of those years were with children. And I strongly agree with the "...need firm boundaries" statement. Firm boundaries lead to self-responsibility. However...

I vehemently disagree with the "why the hell do people take children out to a place that's dirty, unsanitary..." point. Um, camping? It's as sanitary as you make it. Better tell the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and every school district to cancel those trips they had planned.

"...and has a lot of adult themed entertainment" Um, parent's responsibility to make sure the kids are not exposed to anything they don't feel comfortable with? Agreed, I wouldn't take a child to the GCBEC...or TOA...or the Fornication Station (but that's my prerogative). Now, that being said, the interactivity and creativity of the playa and art installations is something that we should be encouraging.

I'd much prefer my kids to be interacting on the playa than sitting on the couch watching tripe like Temptation Island or some MTV-sponsored "Real Live Spring Break" show...that's where the real danger lies...in your living room...
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Postby Taniwha » Sun Sep 07, 2003 11:34 pm

L:Gringo wrote:
Adult themed? Okay, you got me there. But you have no idea the positive reaction we received when showing our daughter the playa. Yes, there is stuff that goes on that kids shouldn't see. But that's up to the parents to help the kids through. Now, most kids (well, maybe none) are gonna be hanging around JiffyLube at 2:00 a.m. or be checking out the sites at any of the multitudinous S&M camps.


My kids got the same wonderfull reception they got last year .... thanks to everyone ... think you got great playa-gifts? ... you should see how kids get showered :-)

Yes kids do need guidance at BM ... there are places that we don't encourage ... on the other hand we have great discusions about people, diversity, tolerance, art, safety etc etc "no, I don't think he's really giving away 'lemonade' "

Mind you I go to the playa 4-5 times a year - the kids, when they come, are used to the environment and have a reasonable idea of how to look after themselves (water, sunscreen, shade ... )

L:Gringo wrote:
Will I bring her when she's 10? 12? 14? Probably not. There is too much risk to her safety -- not because of something she might see, but of something she might be convinced to do. But she should know early on that life is not always as it seems and it is okay, or even preferable (sp?) to be different.
.


I disagree - we brought a 12 yr old and 2 10yr olds this year - we were much more worried last year - this year we brought radios and never used them - there seemed to be people who we trusted who wanted to spend time with them and sending them off by themselves at this age - in a structured way "letting us know where they are going and for how long" is part of their growing up and learning to be independant is important

L:Gringo wrote:
Chillin' with my little one who loved the art, the camps (especially Lawn Game Camp and Bunny Camp (hi neighbors)), and the people...


yes - lawngames, the bowling, roller skating - the merry-go-rounds - thanks to everyone that put on stuff that could be enjoyed by people of all ages. And to those who adopted our kids into their lives - the girls even found themselvews 'flower girls' in a wedding
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Some Suggestions for Staying Healthy

Postby Bunnymonkey » Sun Sep 07, 2003 11:37 pm

Suggestions (some obvious):
1) Sanitation: alcohol gel hand sanitizer, use religiously. It's cheap. Keep a pump at camp, a small bottle with you at all times, one in your tent. Works well on "clean" utensils and eating vessels (rinse with water). Some porta-potti sites had hand sanitizer pump stations. This is really a public health issue, they all should.
2) Stay hydrated and well rested, does wonders for the immune system.
3) Chewable acidophilus tablets (on the principle that an abundance of healthy intestinal flora will out-compete other micro-organisms and help foster an internal environment hostile to viruses).
4) Nasal Passages: remove playa from nose (unscented babywipe), insert your clean finger and smidgen petroleum jelly, wipe remove excess. Ahhh.
5) Breathing: look for dust masks that are rated for fine particulate matter, possibly "N95," but I could have the designation wrong. Make sure it fits your face, seals well. Don't leave camp w/o it. Finally, I once read about some strange facial mask (used for the dry climes of long haul airplane flights) that either comes hydrated or you add water to it yourself... you breathe in moist air. I think they were single use for reasons of sanitation.
6) Eyes: there are a couple of brands ("Complete"?) of multi-purpose soft contact lens solution that contain an eye moisturizer... it made all the difference.
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Postby PJ » Mon Sep 08, 2003 6:59 am

Ivy wrote:I go though so much of it that nowadays just the smell will turn me on. Quite Pavlovian, really.


And it's WAY cheaper than cologne.

I always thought that, thanks to some of the various solvents and lubricants used during the annual inspection, that it kinda smells like a freshly-inspected small airplane.

So for some, making propeller noises during the act might be an appropriate addition.
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