In 2011, Richard Gordon and his family relocated from the USA to Suzhou, China, so that his wife could pursue her career.
Suzhou has a 2,500-year history and was transforming into a vibrant modern economy. A subway system was dug beneath the ancient canals. Glass-and-steel skyscrapers and apartment blocks rose beyond the old city's stone gates.
As the buildings rose, the air quality fell. Hard.
The sky turned lead-colored with dust, diesel exhaust, and industrial air pollution. Tiny particulates rained from the sky turning clean windows black with soot in a day.
Air pollution causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is linked to 6 of the top-10 killer diseases worldwide. Bad air quality has been linked to reduction in life-expectancy by as much as 6 years in some mega cities.
Air Quality Index (AQI) measures the concentration of dangerous microscopic particulates (PM2.5) in the air. If inhaled, they penetrate deep into the lungs and cause COPD.
Between 2012 and 2014, PM2.5 AQI levels in Suzhou ranged between very unhealthy (PM2.5 AQI above 200) to hazardous (PM2.5 AQI above 400). Schools advised kids to stay indoors when PM2.5 AQI levels rose above 100.
Air pollution affects children and seniors more than healthy adults. Children's lungs are still developing. Seniors' lung are diminished by age and disease.
Unable to find a breathable respirator that would fit his son and niece or that was breathable enough for their grandparents, Richard took action.
Richard is an experienced engineer and entrepreneur. Naturally, he started hacking respirators.
He understood that a mask that doesn't fit, doesn't filter air, even if it incorporates an N95 filter.
From wearing a mask daily, he knew that his glasses fogged, the mask nose wires cut into his skin leaving painful sores, and that respirators were unattractive, couldn't be cleaned or disinfected, and created lots of waste. Most people he saw wore ill-fitted surgical and cloth masks that didn't protect against PM2.5 air pollution.
By the time the family returned to the United States in 2014, Richard's lab notebook brimmed with respirator ideas.
Richard brainstormed with colleagues and connected with suppliers of the advanced materials needed to build a better mask.
The path to reach Airgami was challenging. After several false starts, dead ends, and one crucial realization, there was a breakthrough and Airgami was conceived.
Today, the patented Airgami N95-grade mask is production tested. It protects against infected aerosols and droplets, wildfire smoke, air pollution, dust, and pollen. Breathability, comfort, and style are best-in-class. Airgami is a perfect travel companion during the pandemic, influenza, and wildfire seasons, and when traveling to cities with poor air quality.
Airgami changes the landscape of respiratory protection forever. For that, we can all breathe easier.
All images Copyright © 2020 Richard Gordon.