Foreigners might be creeped out by China’s mask-wearing masses, but they just don’t understand how cool it is to breathe worry-free in China’s polluted air. Face masks have become the norm for many Chinese city residents, and many face mask brands have risen from the primordial market-economy muck to profit from the demand. But how can anyone be sure their mask is actually saving their lungs?
A new study by China Consumers Association (CCA) found that only nine out of 37 face mask brands met standards for effective particulate filtering while still allowing normal breathing. The CCA found that the most expensive mask, priced at 199rmb, was no better than the cheapest, a disposable mask that costs 1rmb.
If you’re a newcomer to China, debating whether or not you should do as Romans do, or you’ve already decided to jump on the free-breathing bandwagon, here’s four more of the most effective face mask brands you should use.
3M N95 Masks
The 3M Company produces a large range of disposable N95 (American Centers for Disease Control standard) certified masks. Construction and heavy industries workers have used 3M N95 masks for decades. They are considered the gold standard of masks as they have the longest, research-tested track record by far. Quite a few models are available here in Shanghai, and some have special exhalation valves that are useful for sports and unflagging eyeglasses.
Each mask should be around 7-15 RMB each, depending on the buy volume. You can buy 3M masks online from taobao.com or shop3m.com.
Vogmask started in the super-green, super-hip enclave of Santa Cruz, California, and as such saw a demand for stylish post-apocalypse lung protection. Their masks can come in organic cotton fiber, or a high-tech non-woven microfiber, both sandwiching an N99 grade filter. They are making a big splash this summer with the first consumer line of pollution masks specifically designed for children’s faces.
Practicality with style costs money. Vogmasks range from 120-150rmb. You can buy them from vogmask.com or taobao.com.
Totobobo is a well-known, reusable, and consumer-friendly mask brand that’s been around for a few years, and is originally from Singapore. They have a few models for adults and kids, with differing levels of filtration from 92% to 96% — but in China, there’s no reason not to use the strongest, at 96%.
Totobobo’s mask design revolves around making the mask as unnoticeable as possible—from the clear mask material to the highly engineered strap and seal design. The mask frames cost 200rmb and a pair of replacement 96% filters costs 25rmb. Totobobo does not have its own online store, but their masks are on taobao.com
MASkin, a relatively new player (founded 2011) in the mask market, is a Chinese company that makes a variety of cheap, disposable N95 masks. Their masks tested just as well as 3M masks in the CCA research. They’re simple and cheap yet effective, but you likely need to buy from a vendor.
MASkin masks can be bought online at taobao.com
Before you know it, you will be one with the facemask-wearing-masses, breathing the one true air. And your offspring shall breathe the one true air as well because they too will be of the mask. The only thing that can stop the final coming of the mask people is the formidable cult of environmentalism. In that case, we can only pray for the salvation of the One True Mask.