Most humans breathe bad air. 92% of the world population lives in places where the air pollution levels exceed the World Health Organization‘s (WHO) Ambient Air Quality Guidelines, according to a September 2016 WHO report. The WHO guidelines refer to annual mean particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers. Pollutants smaller than that size include sulfate, nitrates, and black carbon, which get deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system and are the greatest human health risk. WHO reported that in 2012 an estimated 6.5 million deaths (11.6% of all global deaths) were linked to indoor and outdoor air pollution.

The French firm Wair has developed fashion accessory neck garments with integrated filters to protect wearers from air pollution. Wair combined fashion and technology in the design of the Wair scarf and neck tube. There are three parts of each Wair scarf or tube: garment material, a mask, and a replaceable air filter. The scarf or tube is made of recycled polyester. The silicon mask fits inside the scarf and seals your face so that air enters only through the third component, the replaceable filter. The 3-layer filter is composed of separate electrostatic, bactericide, and carbon filters.  Each scarf or tube comes with a filter in place plus one extra. According to Wair the filters last 3 months. The filters screen particles greater than PM 0.1. According to the European Environmental Agency, PM0.1 refers to “particulate matter with an average aerodynamic diameter of up to 0.1 µm, referred to as ultrafine particle fraction.”

Wair’s two products are currently available for preorder only, with delivery expected in two months.  There are five scarf designs and three tube colors to choose from now, but once production ramps up the company intends to offer many more choices. You may have seen people on the streets in large cities with high pollution levels wearing surgical masks as protection from pollution. Wair’s fashion accessory scarves and neck tubes may cause some stares, but they’re more attractive than surgical masks. Without significant air quality improvement, Wair’s design and others may become the norm.