Ao Air's Atmos Faceware is a technological solution to the increasing levels of air pollution in a world that it literally burns. But the $ 350 gadget that just debuted at CES2020 may be beyond the economic reach of the people who really need it and who are most vulnerable to the problem.
Breathing in air filled with pollutants is extremely dangerous - it can worsen asthma and other respiratory conditions and increase the risk of stroke, heart disease and cancer. People who are breathing in the fumes of fires in Australia, for example, also have to deal with smoke, not just fire. And even areas far from fires become saturated with harmful particles. Atmos Faceware aims to be the solution to people's air quality problems.
The company has commissioned its own study: the mask he developed seems to offer better protection against particulates than standard certified masks. (The study, however, has not been published). Unlike most face masks and other respirators, the Atmos Faceware doesn't require an airtight seal to be effective, according to the company's press release. Hair, sweat and other factors do not hinder the function of Faceware.
Atmos Faceware is also different in design. It is worn almost like a pair of glasses, resting on the nose, allowing others to see the face.
The cost takes your breath away
It is also an expensive choice: the mask, with four extra filters, costs around 350 €. A "limited number" of masks are currently available for presale during CES2020. For comparison, an N95 mask, the most common certified anti-pollution mask, costs around 15 euros.
Air filters are becoming more popular due to climate change. The "fire seasons" will be longer and more intense, increasing the number of days with high levels of air pollution. Warmer temperatures also mean more stagnant air and more ozone choking the air at low altitudes.
In this sad scenario, turning pollution protection into an expensive accessory and status symbol is a predictable consequence. Companies are also preparing to capitalize on people's concerns about natural disasters and poor environmental conditions. Naomi Klein would call it "Disaster Capitalism".
Air filter masks have been fashionable items in China and India for years, and companies have already entered the margins of the American market. Maybe masks will be in fashion just like sunglasses.