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Perfect fit for protection from pesky pollution

By Zheng Xin | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-17 08:00

China's smog has made the anti-pollution mask one of the hottest products recently and many startup companies are eyeing a slice of the hazy cake.

One of the newcomers to the market is the idMask, designed specifically to protect the public from pollution. The mask has a silicon seal to make sure no pollution leaks in from the sides - a defect many existing masks have.

The California-registered company idMask said it aims to come up with a mask that truly showcases the company's entrepreneurial skills.

"There are many anti-pollution masks on the market but not many have a better seal than idMask," said Henry Sung, founder of the company. It has offices in San Francisco, Beijing and Shanghai.

Despite the idMask costing much more than other masks on the market - 299 yuan ($43) for a mask and 59 yuan for 24 filters, 20 times than a regular 3M mask or a Honeywell one - the company has reported a rise in sales following frequent smogs in the country.

Sung said: "The idMask saw a 500 percent increase in sales from the first pollution season in 2014 to 2015."

Sung did not release the company's sales figures.

Sung said he believes the idMask's outstanding sealing feature will make it stand out in spite of its high price.

"The real benefit is getting a mask that truly seals your face, and idMasks are reusable for years. The lower cost of replacing filters over time makes the price competitive," he said.

Sung started testing the company's first batch of masks in Beijing and Shanghai in the winter of 2014.

The company has recently started selling them on e-commerce platforms, including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's Taobao and Tmall and expanded its offline stores to more than 20 booths in Beijing and Shanghai, after a sales surge.

The company has so far received a few rounds of funding, and is thinking about tapping angel investors soon, said Sung.

He said: "We have some ideas worth exploring and some investors are already interested."

The 31-year-old entrepreneur said he set up the company's first design team in San Francisco in 2013 with an idealistic mission.

"When my grandmother and I returned to my birth city of Beijing in 2013 amid heavy air pollution, we were completely unprepared, and she soon suffered a stroke and a heart attack later on," said Sung.

"I tried looking for suitable masks everywhere, but I couldn't find anything that properly sealed the face against the bad air. That's when I decided to do something in my power and design an anti-pollution mask with a seal."

According to Michael Wester, a blogger with the Beijinger magazine who has been living in Beijing for many years, the mask is effective, but the product could use some debugging.

The silicone seal and adjustable straps give this mask a superior fit and breathing was just natural, but the see-through version is not that good aesthetically, he said.

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