NOTE: As of 2014 I no longer consider this a first line choice against air pollution in China after further research and my own testing here …
What’s the best air pollution mask for China? Here’s yet another question I am constantly asked. My previous articles have discussed the pros and cons of models such as 3M, Totobobo and Vogmask. But there are quite a few other brands out there, including I Can Breathe! models from the USA. I was sent a sample of their Active Sports mask to test out in Beijing, and I used it during my bike commutes to work at my clinic in CBD. Here is my report.
One very good thing about I Can Breathe! is that they have actual proof of real-world effectiveness. Many mask companies have done tests showing their their fabric stops 95% or more of PM2.5 — but if the fit on the face is poor, then all of that leaking air makes it worthless. That’s why quantitative fit test results are key for any masks. And this is why I really like Totobobo, 3M and Vogmask because they’ve proven they work better than 95% in real life — on someone’s face. I Can Breathe! also has these fit test results, which they detail on their website here. The test results are great: 99% effective against particle sizes of 1 micron (PM1.0), which are even smaller than PM2.5.
Here are my findings:
Comfort: Very comfortable mesh fabric, one of the best I’ve tried. Plus, the adjustable straps go around the ears which I always find to be much more comfortable and practical than behind the head.
Air Leaking: I did notice a bit of smell and air sometimes, so it didn’t feel quite as snug as 3M or Totobobo.
Fog Factor: very little fogging of my glasses
Stinky Factor: Pretty good. It dries quickly and your mouth isn’t resting on the fabric.
Hipness: Not bad at all! Different colors and models
Filters: the replaceable filter is a bit difficult to switch out the exhalation valve, but it’s tolerable. I think exhalation valves are key to keeping moisture out of the mask when engaged in heavy activity such as jogging and biking.
Kid Friendly: No, I don’t see specific children’s sizes here
Reusability: The outer mesh is washable many times, and you buy filter inserts
Bottom Line: This is a very good, comfortable mask for adults during leisure and sports, with proof of effectiveness. It’s definitely one of my favorite reusable masks.
You can buy the I Can Breathe! masks in China from their Taobao store.
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