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Haze and smog are a major issue in cities all over the world, especially in Asia.

In densely populated countries like China and India, the roads are regularly congested with vehicles; creating smog. In Indonesia, slash-and-burn clearing of land creates haze, which poses a serious health hazard to its residents and to those of neighbouring countries.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), outdoor air pollution accounts for 1.3 million deaths every year. It also increases the risk of developing acute and chronic respiratory disease. This is certainly not a trivial health issue.

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Naturally, respiratory masks have been developed to help reduce the inhalation of harmful particles found in the air pollutants. Some work well in keeping you out of harm’s way, but the downside is that they might also make you feel as if you are being smothered because of a poor design. They also have to be discarded after every use.

Now Swedish-based startup Airinum is leveraging on ergonomic design and new technologies to make respiratory masks more effective.

“I simply couldn’t find a mask I would like to wear. I only found industrial respirators that had good protection but were extremely uncomfortable to wear, or poorly protective masks with flamboyant designs, says Alexander Hjertström, Co-founder and CEO of Airinum, in a press release.

Hjertström came up with the idea of Airinum after a stay in India caused his long-gone asthma symptoms to resurface.

The technology

Airinum uses a three-layer high-tech filter technology — the mask comprises one thin layer, while the filters are attached onto it — which it claims is six times more effective than other respiratory masks in the market, and filters out 99 per cent of the particles and bacteria found in air pollutants.

It features flexible stretch binding, adjustable ear loops and an attachable head strap to make it easier to put on.

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It also uses a type of polyester and elastane that in combination increases breathability. This makes it more favourable in humid climates.

Currently priced at US$19 (or US$35 after the early bird sales end) on its Kickstarter crowdfunding page. Hjertström says that the masks can last for years while the filters only need to be changed monthly, depending on the usage.

Besides featuring a sleek and efficient design, Airinum is also introducing a bit of Swedish-style metropolitan art into it: Twelve selectable minimalist designs that will fit right in with any urban outfit catalogue.

These guys look like they are about to hit a bank

Looks like they are about to drop a rap single

Future plans

Once the campaign has reached its funding goal — as of the time of writing, it has already exceeded its goal by €1,263 or US$1,340 despite having only launched two days ago — Hjertström plans to sell the Airinum masks globally through its website. It will also offer an optional subscription service for its filters.

“As a second step, we will start distributing from the top e-commerce market places (i.e Flipkart) mainly in Asia. Some exclusive partnerships offline will also be added next year,” says Hjertström.

Airinum also has tentative plans to incorporate smart tech into its masks.

“Building a huge database on air quality is one route, the other would be more related to information on personal health. Using digital solutions, we can improve protection and increase knowledge for consumers, while at the same time accelerate government policy implementation that can reduce the problem of air pollution in the long run,” he concludes.

Also Read: Infographic: Staying indoors may not keep you safe from haze