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December, 2016:

City faces more extreme weather events

Can you handle the heat? Hong Kong Observatory director forecasts more extreme weather after record-breaking years

The city saw the warmest year on record, but also the coldest day in six decades in 2016

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2058424/can-you-handle-heat-observatory-chief-forecasts

The Hong Kong Observatory will consider extending its forecasts following a record number of extreme weather events in recent years and predictions of more harsh conditions to come.

Speaking on radio on Saturday, observatory director Shun Chi-ming said the number of extreme weather events in Hong Kong had clearly increased over the last two years when compared to the past 130 years of archival records.

Hong Kong saw 30 record-breaking weather events in 2015 and 2016 alone.

“We will be facing more such weather in the future,” Shun warned, attributing the harsh conditions to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the world’s atmosphere.

Last January Hong Kong saw the coldest day in six decades and temperatures dipped below zero in some areas.

In the end, however, 2016 was the city’s warmest year on record. In June, temperatures hit 35 degrees Celsius for four consecutive days, the longest hot streak ever – one day longer than the previous record of three days.

While the same cold conditions weren’t expected for this January, Shun said changes in weather conditions will be more amplified in coming years.

He urged Hongkongers not to take risks during extreme weather events, such as chasing typhoons or climbing the city’s highest peak in an attempt to see snow.

The director also questioned whether Hongkongers were even prepared to deal with increasingly severe weather conditions, and urged the government to support disadvantaged residents who may not have air conditioning.

“Hongkongers have been accustomed to a very comfortable indoor environment…Are they really capable of dealing with extreme weather conditions outdoors?” he said.

To help people to better prepare for more frequent weather events, the observatory will consider extending its forecasts from nine days to two weeks, the director added.

“We already have statistics covering weeks ahead,” Shun said, adding that extended forecasts were already available on various websites.

Shun said it would be ideal if observatory officers could provide scientific analysis with the release of extended forecasts to prevent unnecessary rumours, false or inaccurate readings.

Sharp improvement in Hong Kong’s bad air days attributed to wild weather

Heavy downpours in January and October, usually two of the worst months, help to disperse pollutants

Hong Kong breathed a little easier this year as the number of hours of air pollution reaching “high health risk” and beyond fell by half the recent average.

But much of the decline was due to wetter, windier weather in what are traditionally two of the most polluted months, January and October, according to a study by an environmental group.

Hongkongers were exposed to 1,480 hours of air of high health risk this year, meaning “7” or above on the government’s 11-tier Air Quality Health Index (AQHI), when children, the elderly and those with heart or respiratory illnesses are advised to avoid physical exertion outside and areas with heavy traffic.

About 3,559 hours were logged last year and 4,110 hours in 2014. The yearly average from 2014 to December 20 this year was 3,050 hours. There were also fewer days with high-risk air – 65 compared with 96 in 2014 and 79 in 2015.

Green Power analysed data from the Environmental Protection Department’s 13 general air quality monitoring stations and found “major decreases” in hours of high health risk air in the city’s most polluted towns, including Tuen Mun, Kwai Chung, Yuen Long, Kwun Tong and Tung Chung.

Dr Cheng Luk-ki, head of scientific research and conservation, said the worst months for pollution were usually August to October in the autumn seasonal transition as well as January. “This year the biggest drops whether in hours or days were recorded in October and January.”

Abnormal weather may have been a major factor.

Around 266mm of rain fell in January, 10 times the average of 25mm, according to the Observatory, possibly helping in the dispersal of pollutants. Hong Kong was also affected by five tropical cyclones in October, which brought windier and wetter weather. Rainfall was six times higher than the October average.

Wang Tao, chair professor of atmospheric environment at Polytechnic University – who was not involved in the analysis – said weather and climate changes affected statistical metrics and definitely had a role to play in the drop, as there had been no major reduction in emissions.

A department spokesman cited “efforts to improve air quality in recent years” including the gradual phasing-out of old diesel commercial vehicles, exhaust emissions controls and new laws requiring ships at berth to switch to low-sulphur fuel as playing a role.

But Cheng stressed that air pollution remained stubbornly high in areas such as Tuen Mun, Tung Chung and Yuen Long, all of which had more than 40 days of high-risk air this year, often with ozone or roadside nitrogen oxide concentrations exceeding World Health Organisation safety levels.

“With 65 days of high health risk air, one in every six days is a high health risk. We think this is still considered a serious issue,” said Cheng.

The AQHI, which replaced the Air Pollution Index in 2013, categorises “1” as the lowest risk and a “10+” as the most serious.

Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2057498/sharp-improvement-hong-kongs-bad-air-days

The Search Is on for Pulling Carbon from the Air

Scientists are investigating a range of technologies they hope can capture lots of carbon without a lot of cost

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-search-is-on-for-pulling-carbon-from-the-air/

Nations worldwide have agreed to limit carbon dioxide emissions in hopes of preventing global warming from surpassing 2 degrees Celsius by 2100. But countries will not manage to meet their goals at the rate they’re going. To limit warming, nations will also likely need to physically remove carbon from the atmosphere. And to do that, they will have to deploy “negative emissions technology”—techniques that scrub CO2 out of the air.

Can these techniques, such as covering farmland with crushed silica, work? Researchers acknowledge that they have yet to invent a truly cost-effective, scalable and sustainable technology that can remove the needed amount of carbon dioxide, but they maintain that the world should continue to look into the options. “Negative emissions technologies are coming into play because the math [on climate change] is so intense and unforgiving,” Katharine Mach, a senior research scientist at Stanford University. Last week at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco, researchers presented several intriguing negative emissions strategies, as well as the drawbacks.

Enhanced Weathering with Agriculture

Earth’s surface naturally removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through the chemical breakdown of rocks, but the phenomenon occurs extremely slowly. Scientists have proposed speeding up this process—which is called “weathering”—with man-made intervention. At the AGU conference, David Beerling, director of the Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation, explained an agricultural technique that could quicken weathering and theoretically benefit crops as well.

In this method, farmers would apply finely crushed silicate rocks to their land. The roots of crops and fungus in the soil would accelerate the chemical and physical breakdown of the silicate rocks, and at the same time, carbon dioxide would be pulled from the air into the soil due to a chemical reaction that occurs as part of the weathering process. Grinding the silicate rocks into the size of pellets or sand grains would speed up natural weathering because it increases the amount of rock surface area available to react.

In addition to capturing carbon dioxide, the weathered rocks would release valuable nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium into the soil, which would help crops grow. The rocks would provide plants with silica as well, which Beerling says could help them build stronger cells to better fend off pests. “You could reduce fertilizer and pesticide use, which would reduce the cost to the farmers as well,” he explains. The enhanced weathering may also help with ocean acidification, according to Beerling.

Some of the carbon dioxide that’s captured would stay in the soil, but much of it would get flushed into the ocean as a compound called bicarbonate. Bicarbonate is basic, which means it could potentially balance out the increasingly acidic oceans.

This technique has major drawbacks, though. Researchers are skeptical of the method because it would cost a lot to grind and transport rocks, and both those steps would require a lot of energy, which could create more emissions. There are also possible impacts on the ecosystem to consider. “I’m concerned about [environmental] disturbance,” says Rob Jackson, professor of earth sciences at Stanford. “This would essentially be a massive mining operation.” Jackson does like the potential benefits, though—like fertilizing soils—in addition to removing carbon dioxide.

Carbon Capture with Ocean Thermal Energy

A different negative emissions technique would take advantage of the ocean’s vast temperature differences: ocean thermal energy conversion. In this approach, cold water is pumped from the ocean’s depth up to the warmer surface, and the temperature difference is used to generate electricity. Researchers have already demonstrated the technique on a small scale. Now Greg Rau at the University of California at Santa Cruz wants to combine it alongside a chemical reaction that would suck carbon dioxide from the air at the ocean’s surface and also generate hydrogen at the same time. The reaction would be helpful in several ways: it would capture CO2, and convert the thermal-generated electricity to an energy form—hydrogen—that could be transported by tanker to land from offshore. And like the enhanced weathering method, this approach would turn CO2 into bicarbonate that would sit down into the ocean, helping to counteract acidification. Rau has also proposed modifying the ocean thermal energy system to avoid any CO2 release that could happen when deep ocean water is pumped to the surface.

So far, Rau has only demonstrated his process in the lab. “His idea is very much in the conceptual stages,” says Chris Field, founding director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford. “It has the potential to be something, but it’s still very much a niche solution at this point.”

Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage

One of the most developed negative emissions technologies is known as bio-energy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS. The process entails growing trees and plants such as switchgrass that suck up carbon dioxide as they grow, burning them for energy in power plants, and then capturing and storing the carbon dioxide released during the burning. The capture and storage would be done by putting a filter in the smokestack, compressing the CO2, and then injecting it underground. BECCS generates energy and removes carbon from the air, which sounds appealing.

But scientists say BECCS would take up a massive amount of land. According to one estimate, BECCS would require about a third of the world’s arable land in order to capture enough carbon dioxide to keep the temperature from rising above two degrees. “I’m skeptical you can ever reach the necessary scale, because you’d need a huge amount of land to keep up with human emissions, and in a world where you have to feed more people than ever before,” says Klaus Lackner, director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University. Plus, some are concerned that BECCS isn’t as effective as it appears—they say that if factors like land-use changes that result from the process are counted, BECCS may not reduce emissions as much as people think. For instance, if people cut down a tropical rainforest to burn its wood for BECCS, they would ultimately create more emissions—at least in the short-term. Or if BECCS takes over land previously used for purposes like agriculture, it could push people to deforest other land for their needs. Also, storing the carbon created by burning biomass requires a lot of energy, which costs money and can generate more emissions.

There are other negative emissions strategies as well—major ones that have gotten a lot of attention, such as directly capturing CO2 from the air with large panels coated with chemicals, and restoring forests so more trees can absorb more CO2. Lesser known ideas are out there, too, such as using wood to build homes and offices so that carbon dioxide is locked away in the walls of buildings. Yet none of the technologies so far have proven to be viable and cost-effective on the scale that’s needed.

Experts say more money and research should go into investigating a broad range of technologies and determining the best options—and they say the work needs to start happening now. In Chris Field’s AGU lecture, he said that if the world wants to use negative emissions technologies to significantly draw down carbon emissions by the latter part of this century, they need to start being deployed as early as 2020 or 2030. “All the negative emissions technologies, except for growing forests, are in the very early stages of development,” explains Field. “If these technologies are going to make a difference, they’re going to have to go from essentially nothing now to a massive scale in decades.”

Hong Kong’s first integrated recycling plant for e-waste part of plans to make polluters pay

Operator looks to increase city’s recovery rate for electronic waste to at least 80 per cent as government implements “polluter pays” laws

The operator of Hong Kong’s first integrated recycling plant for electronics is hoping to increase the local recovery rate of such waste materials once its new facility and collection network become fully operational “on time and on budget” next year.

Packed into yellow steel cages, stacked two storeys high in a Sheung Shui warehouse are 200 tonnes of old bulky television sets, inkjet printers, scanners and refrigerators that the government contractor has been collecting since July. It will reach full capacity at 600.

The junk will be trucked off to the government’s first integrated treatment and recycling facility when it opens in the middle of next year at the Tuen Mun EcoPark – one of several measures to accommodate the government’s new “polluter pays” laws on certain types of electronic waste.

The producer responsibility scheme will include televisions, fridges, washing machines, computer products and air-conditioning units.

Passed in the legislature in March, once in effect, importers or distributors of the appliances will have to pay to help fund collection and disposal of waste electrical goods.

“In Europe, recycling is something expected, but in Hong Kong we’re still learning,” said ALBA IWS director Nigel Mattravers, the government contractor tasked with building and operating the facility and network.

The contractor is building five regional collection centres, including the one in Sheung Shui, to sort, store and record the e-waste, and eight satellite centres for collection only. Apart from helping businesses or NGOs conduct “take-back” services, the public can also drop e-waste off directly at the collection centres.

About 70,000 tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment is disposed of in the city each year, 80 per cent of which is shipped off to regions such as Africa and Southeast Asia, while the rest is handled locally and dumped in a landfill.

The new facility will be able to handle 30,000 tonnes per year but the operator claims it will be able to increase capacity by extending operating hours if necessary.

“Much of this material is handled very badly across the world. At this facility we will recover all the hazardous materials from these appliances and make sure they are properly disposed of … and processed in a safe and environmentally sound fashion,” Mattravers said.

The products will be detoxified, dismantled and turned into secondary raw material such as plastics, alumina, copper or iron, which can be reused for manufacture or landfilled locally “in a clean manner”.

Mattravers said the target was to increase the local recovery rate to at least 80 per cent.

The Environmental Protection Department said reliance on exports to manage e-waste was not sustainable in the long run because demand for second-hand products overseas would decline over time.

Harmful materials found in e-waste, if not properly treated or disposed of, can harm the environment and human health.

ALBA IWS logistics manager Lawrence Cheung said the operator would have strict guidelines on waste collection such as by collecting only from a registered retailer or licensed recycler to avoid collecting illegally imported e-waste.

A two-year investigation by environmental group ¬Basel Action Network last year found Hong Kong to be a dumping ground for unwanted e-waste from the United States, in violation of the Basel Convention, which bars importation of hazardous waste.
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2057273/hong-kongs-first-integrated-recycling-plant-e

Average Hongkonger sent 1.39kg per day of solid waste to landfills, up 3pc on last year

Authorities attribute surge to more commercial and industrial waste being dumped in wake of ‘relatively buoyant local economy’

The average Hongkonger sent 1.39kg of municipal solid waste into landfills per day last year, marking a 3 per cent rise from the year before and the highest level in 10 years, though notable reductions in food and special waste were recorded, new official data revealed.

The Environmental Protection Department attributed the increase to more commercial and industrial waste being dumped, which in turn was partly attributable to a “relatively buoyant local economy” last year.

The average volume of municipal solid waste sent to the tips in 2014 was 1.35kg per capita per day.

Recycling rates for municipal solid waste also fell – from 37 per cent in 2014 to 35 per cent last year – driven by significant declines in recovery rates for waste paper and plastics, which fell by 52,000 and 5,000 tonnes respectively.

Every day last year, the city disposed of some 2,257 tonnes of waste paper and 2,183 tonnes of waste plastic in landfills – 17.5 and 8.3 per cent more than the previous year.

The two categories each account for about one fifth of the municipal solid waste mix.

Meanwhile, the volume of plastic PET bottles (made of polyethylene terephthalate) disposed of alone grew 3 per cent last year as recycling rates nearly slumped in half from 14 per cent to just 7.6 per cent.

The low waste recovery rates were blamed on a dismal international market for recyclables in the past few years, resulting in a “dampening effect” on demand as well as on the prices of local recyclables.

However, the amount of landfilled food waste – comprising one third of municipal waste – saw a surprise retreat of 7.1 per cent last year to 3,382 tonnes, or about 0.46kg per person daily. The change was largely driven by households’ kitchen waste.

The department claimed the drop could “well be a result of efforts made by many sectors of the community” in response to various government initiatives intended to “nurture a culture of reducing food waste at source and to donate surplus food to the needy”.

Environmental group The Green Earth said the sustained high disposal rates stemmed from a variety of factors: a lack of volume-based waste charging, the delayed commissioning of an organic waste treatment facility for food waste, and a downturn in the recycling trade.

It urged the government to speed up legislation for municipal solid waste-charging to curb the growth of industrial and commercial waste. It also advocated implementing more producer responsibility laws and regulations for items such as plastic bottles and beverage containers.

A department spokesman said it would continue to “vigorously implement policies on waste avoidance and reduction, including municipal solid waste charging and producer responsibility schemes”.

It is understood the Environment Bureau hopes to prepare corresponding legislative proposals within the current legislative term.

Of the 5.5 million tonnes of solid waste discarded last year, two-thirds, or 3.7 million tonnes, was municipal solid waste: that is, rubbish generated domestically from homes, and commercial or industrial activities. Most of it comprised food, paper and plastics.

The remaining 1.8 million tonnes primarily consisted of waste from the construction sector, or special waste, which includes livestock, radioactive, grease trap waste and sewage sludge.

The amount of special waste discarded in landfills fell by 34.5 per cent last year due to the commissioning of a new treatment facility in Tuen Mun, which incinerates sewage sludge into residue and ash.
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2056687/average-hongkonger-sent-139kg-solid-waste

Hong Kong gov’t announces new HK$150m biodiversity strategy and action plan

https://www.hongkongfp.com/2016/12/21/hong-kong-govt-announces-first-biodiversity-strategy-and-action-plan/

The government announced the city’s first strategy and action plan to conserve biodiversity and support sustainable development on Wednesday.

The Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP) outlines 67 action points in four major area including conservation, biodiversity, awareness and promotion of community involvement.

The conservation measures include designing new parks and strengthening the management of protected areas such as marine parks. Also included are plans to conserve species that demand specific attention, for example, horseshoe crabs and incense trees.

Director of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department Leung Siu-fai said the legislative process of designating the Brothers Marine Park is about to be completed. Three new marine parks will be brought online in the next few years, he added.

“In choosing appropriate locations for country parks, the department has been assessing areas based on their ecological value, and whether they can provide leisure and educational facilities to the public,” Leung said.

A spokesperson for the Worldwide Fund for Nature told HKFP: “We do believe that much can be achieved by implementing this action plan, including expanding Hong Kong’s network of marine parks and developing & implementing effective action plans for species such as Pangolin, Golden Coin Turtle, Black Faced Spoonbill and Chinese white dolphin. We will work with and also hold government to account for the implementation of this plan.”

More enclaves

Secretary for the the Environment Wong Kam-sing added that more enclaves will be incorporated into country parks.

The plan also aims to ensure different government bureaux continue incorporating biodiversity considerations in their work. The government will lead, or commission, studies to monitor and collect data on biodiversity, such as species assessment.

The final section of the plan calls for the promotion of conservation work in schools or to the general public.

Hong Kong Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2016-2021. Photo: GovHK.

“The Government started the preparation of the BSAP in 2013. In the public consultation conducted in early 2016, the initiative to implement the BSAP has received general support from various sectors of the community,” Wong said.

The government has set aside HK$150 million to carry out the initiatives of BSAP in the first three years.

Air pollution costs trillions

Premature deaths due to air pollution cause annual global costs of about US$225 billion in lost work days, and more than US$5 trillion in welfare losses, according to a new study.

http://airclim.org/acidnews/air-pollution-costs-trillions

Exposure to air pollution increases the risk of contracting cancers and heart, lung and respiratory diseases. According to the latest available estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), 5.5 million premature deaths worldwide, or 1 in every 10 deaths, in 2013 were attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution.

A joint study, entitled “The Cost of Air Pollution: Strengthening the economic case for action”, published by the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, has estimated the costs of premature deaths related to air pollution.

Using the WHO estimates of premature mortality attributable to air pollution, the study valued the economic costs following two different approaches: Firstly a welfare-based approach that monetizes the increased fatality risk from air pollution according to individuals’ willingness to pay, and secondly an income-based approach that equates the financial cost of premature mortality with the present value of forgone lifetime earnings.

In 2013, the cost to the world’s economy of welfare losses due to exposure to ambient and household air pollution amounted to some US$5.11 trillion. In terms of magnitude, welfare losses in South Asia and East Asia and the Pacific were the equivalent of about 7.5 per cent of the regional gross domestic product (GDP), while in Europe and North America they were equal to respectively 5.1 and 2.8 per cent of GDP. At the low end, losses were still equal to 2.2 per cent of GDP in the Middle East and North Africa.

It is pointed out that the full costs of air pollution to society are even greater than is reported in the study. Examples of other costs not included in this report are the costs of illnesses (e.g. hospital care, medication), reduced output of agricultural crops, damage to natural ecosystems and cultural heritage, and lowered economic competitiveness of growing cities.

On top of being a major health risk, air pollution is also a drag on development. By causing illness and premature death, air pollution reduces the quality of life. By causing a loss of productive labour, it also reduces productivity and incomes.

According to the study, annual labour income losses cost the equivalent of 0.83 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in South Asia. In East Asia and the Pacific, where the population is ageing, labour income losses represent 0.25 per cent of GDP, while in Sub-Saharan Africa, where air pollution impairs the earning potential of younger populations, annual labour income losses represent 0.61 per cent of GDP.

“Air pollution is a challenge that threatens basic human welfare, damages natural and physical capital, and constrains economic growth. We hope this study will translate the cost of premature deaths into an economic language that resonates with policy makers so that more resources will be devoted to improving air quality. By supporting healthier cities and investments in cleaner sources of energy, we can reduce dangerous emissions, slow climate change, and most importantly save lives,” said Laura Tuck, Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank.

Christer Ågren

The report: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/25013

World Bank press release, 8 September 2016: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2016/09/08/air-pollution-…

Hongkongers could benefit from new air pollution mask that’s six times more effective than rivals

After months of development, a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and many pre-orders, a Swedish start-up has launched the Airinum Urban Breathing Mask to meet growing global demand

http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/health-beauty/article/2050738/hongkongers-could-benefit-new-air-pollution-mask-thats-six?cx_tag=recommend_desktop#cxrecs_s

capture

When Alexander Hjertstrom moved from his native Sweden to the western Indian city of Ahmedabad in the autumn of 2014, he suffered the return of an old fiend: asthma.

The intense air pollution in the city had caused his long-gone respiratory condition to return.

Hjertstrom, then a master’s student on a six-month exchange at the Indian Institute of Management, found that wearing an anti-pollution breathing mask was the most effective way to protect himself. However, he found most masks on the market were primitive and far from perfect in design and construction. They were certainly not appealing to wear every day.

Upon his return to Sweden after finishing a research project on air pollution while in India, Hjertstrom discussed the problem with three friends. Living in Sweden, the clean Scandinavian air was something all four had taken for granted.

“Given how acute the problem of air pollution was and the poor product offerings we could find, we decided to do something about it,” says Fredrik Kempe, a childhood friend of Hjertstrom.

They came up with the Airinum Urban Breathing Mask, which its founders term a “next generation anti-pollution mask”. In tests it has been shown to protect wearers up to six times better than other widely available masks.

After months of development, a very successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and large number of pre-orders, the company opened their online shop for worldwide sales on December 1.

“Compared to all other civilian masks that we’ve found, purchased and tested, our mask really works,” says Kempe, Airinum’s co-founder and chief marketing officer, who has a master’s degree in innovation management.

“Many masks out there today either lack proper filter technology, or they have a poor fit, resulting in leakage and poor filtration. Our mask uses high-quality filters tested here in Sweden in collaboration with Camfil, a global leader in the air filter industry. The construction of the mask has been developed, tested and iterated over the past year to achieve the perfect fit.”

Anti-pollution masks are big business, particularly in smoggy China, where face masks even feature on fashion show catwalks. Sales of masks in China reached 1.7 billion units in 2014, a 20 per cent increase year on year, according to Chinese market research firm Daxue Consulting.

Airinum looks similar to other high-end masks on the market, such as Vogmask, currently the leading face mask in China, and Cambridge Mask. But Kempe says Airinum’s Urban Breathing Mask is “completely different”. For one thing it has a unique changeable filter system, while Vogmask’s filter is permanently sewn into the mask and does not have reusable exhalation valves. So once Vogmask’s filter reaches the end of its useful life (hundreds of hours), or starts to leak, a new mask has to be bought.

Airinum’s mask has proprietary changeable filters that use a three-layer, hi-tech filter technology which protects against up to 99 per cent of viruses, bacteria, allergens and smog. External tests have shown the mask to have better filtration efficiency than the N95 filter mask requirements set forth by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. For easy breathing, the mask has two custom-made exhalation valves – essential to let warm, moist air out of the mask.

For the perfect fit, the mask uses stretchable material that fits the contours of the wearer’s face. Adjustable ear loops and an elastic binding surrounding the mask ensure a tight seal around the face. The mask comes in five sizes to suit both children and adults.

For some aesthetic flair, the founders sought the expertise of renowned Scandinavian creative minds – Mattias Wiklund, the menswear pattern maker at Swedish fast fashion chain H&M, and Kemal Alidzikovic, who works with Swedish fashion/function brands such as Acne and Haglofs.

The Kickstarter campaign, which ran for five weeks in November and December 2015, gathered up €70,743 (HK$581,522) from 1,386 backers in more than 30 markets, including Hong Kong. Airinum also received funding from the Swedish government, business angels and an accelerator programme in Stockholm.

The Urban Breathing Mask costs US$75 and the price includes the mask and two filters, which last up to 200 hours. The company plans to offer a long-term subscription service for filters.