As air pollution steadily worsens across China, at least some people are reaping benefits, like the creators of these “fashionable” face masks that are seeing high demand on web sites like Taobao, for people “who want to look good” while avoiding the smog.
Bedazzled and befuzzled face masks as accessories are becoming as ubiquitous across China’s cities as cell phone charms and vanity glasses, according to SCMP.
“When the air is bad, people who don’t wear masks are like ET,” Chen Dawei, Beijing-based designer, cyclist, and face mask enthusiast said.
A bit of a stretch, Chen. But while face masks have been commonplace on China city streets since the Sars outbreak, new brands and styles of masks are now becoming available based on functionality and fashion to combat increasing smog levels.
Wu Wenxi has been privately selling N95 masks since 2003, when Sars hit China. “When Sars went away, sales of masks fell,” she said. “Now more types of masks have come out because of PM2.5.”
PM, short for particulate matter, is the term for particles found in the air including dust, dirt, soot, smoke and liquid droplets. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, PM2.5, can be inhaled and absorbed into the gas exchange regions of the lung, endangering the respiratory system.
According to EPA guidelines, air quality is considered unhealthy if the average concentration of the PM2.5 particles is more than 100 micrograms per cubic metre.
Retailers on Taobao and TMall have caught on to the growing sales of face masks, and have begun customizing masks to consumers’ tastes, selling hundreds of thousands since last year.
“3M8210 are our best sellers. Around this [year’s] Spring Festival, we had over 10,000 masks sold within weeks,” said Xiao Lu, a saleswoman at Panfeng Househould Products.
“Young people tend to like bright colours. Men prefer blue or black masks. Right now, UV proof masks are popular.”
Not everyone is thrilled about wearing face masks to escape the smog inhalation, however. Rena, a 29 year old from Xinjiang province, paid a hefty 200 yuan for her efficient Totobo brand mask, but says it’s not very comfortable.
“It’s like having fish gills on my face. I can see why people give me strange looks,” she said. To lessen the severity, she puts a normal medical mask on top of her other mask.
We say just throw a bear decal and some glitter on it and go dancing.
Related: Beijing taking pollution seriously, cracking down on BBQ
[Image credit: SCMP]