The only time that I can recall seeing someone wearing a face mask outside an operating room before 2020, was when I was travelling either to Hong Kong or attending a trade show like CES where invariably, usually Asian attendees, much smarter than oblivious North Americans including me, would don a mask whenever they were in a crowded environment. Obviously, it took a pandemic for the rest of world to get onboard with what many in other parts have known for ages; that masks can keep us healthy and save lives.
Since the start of Covid-19 over a year ago, the media has obsessed with stories on masks. At first the stories focused on a shortage of masks, then we migrated to fake masks and do we really need masks to what N95 stood for. We have even seen stories on mask etiquette telling us that both mouth and nose must be covered (duh!) and that its the blue side not the white side that displays on the outside of those terrible looking disposables. Of course, every brand worth their civic duty has come out with a face mask and offerings from Lululemon to Under Armour are commonplace on any socially distant walk around the neighbourhood.
All this mask flurry must seem rather quaint to AirPop, a San Francisco-based technology company that calls itself the world’s first Air Wearables company and has been in the mask business well before Covid-19. AirPop has been designing and manufacturing high performance masks since 2015 for millions of people worldwide and offers a series of masks using a 4-layer filter material to create a barrier down to 0.3 microns, achieving greater than 99% efficiency in accredited laboratory tests.
For the past month, I have been wearing the AirPop Active+ Smart Mask with what the company calls a Halo sensor, essentially a smart mask synched up to my phone, that allows me to actively monitor local air quality and potential health risks, as well as monitor my respiratory health. The downloadable app (both for Android and iOS) captures a combination of data collected from the Halo sensor to monitor breathing patterns and give a visual overview of breathing behavior, cycles, and even the pollutants that the mask has blocked during use. Living in the rarified air of Oakville Ontario, I haven’t captured too many pollutants but that doesn’t discount from the cool factor of wearing a mask that can actually monitor if the air I’m in, is safe. The Halo sensor has an LED ring that you can customize to an array of colours that will turn on from time to time. Mine is blue. The mask synchs via Bluetooth to the AirPop app and keeps track of your breath, how long you have been wearing the mask and of course the pollutants captured. The outside of the mask incorporates a well-constructed mesh lining that houses the battery-operated Halo sensor. A disposable second layer, similar in look to a white surgical mask sits inside the mesh exterior. The Active+ comes in a black/yellow or grey/white with four filters for $199.99. Additional filter packs can be purchased for $29.99 (4-pack). Each disposable filter lasts for 40 hours of wear and the app keeps track of how long you have before it requires a replacement.
If that is just too much tech for you, AirPop also offers equally stylish analog versions such as their multi-use disposable masks that provide 99.3% particle filtration and 99.9% bacterial filtration, plus fluid resistance, to deliver a robust two-way defense again, for up to 40 hours. Ergonomic wings, adjustable ear loops and a cushioned nose seal provide a terrific comfort and fit. The Airpop Light SE version comes in black and a single mask retails for $12.99 while a 4-pack for $39.99.
Other options in the AirPop line include the Pocket and Pocket Case: The Pocket is a light mask that comes with a compatible carrying case. The Pocket’s Ergo-Foam seal conforms to the nose bridge and its top vent allows for moisture to evaporate between wears. Its convertible structure provides compression strength during wear while still being flexible enough to fold down to 25 percent of its original size. The Pocket comes in black and retails for $19.99 for a 2-pack and $34.99 for a 4-pack. Pocket case in black sold separately and retails for $12.99.
Airpop also offers a one-of-a-kind children’s mask giving kids the defense they need against airborne threats while providing comfort and ease for all-day wear with a style that will encourage kids to actually wear a mask. The AirPop Kids masks come in blue and retails for $19.99 for a 2-pack
AirPop also has washable masks called the Original and Active made from engineered soft touch microfiber meaning the line has an offering from under $20 all the way to just under $200. “Masks provide the first line of defense from airborne threats. Our mission at AirPop has always been to provide consumers across the globe with a mask that provides the best in fit, filtration and protection,” said Chris Hosmer, Founder of AirPop. The full Airpop line will be debut starting early May at Best Buy Canada. AirPop is exclusively distributed in Canada by Erikson Consumer.