The Aero gives you a personal clean air environment to your lungs and eyes. The wearable air box cleans the air directly through an advanced, replaceable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
Air pollution is the single biggest environmental health risk . According to the WHO, 90% of the world's population breathes high concentrations of air pollution . This causes 7 million deaths each year  of which 1.6 million are in China . PM2.5 particles of air pollution eliminate more years of life than all other hazards including smoking and alcohol abuse .
PM2.5 is an invisible health killer [5-13]. It causes 24% of the deaths from lung cancer, 40% of stroke, 33% of acute lower respiratory infection, 27% of heart disease and 19% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) . Eyes are also damaged, causing conjunctivitis  and cataract [16, 17].
More and more countries are taking action to reduce air pollution, but still 80% of the 4,300 cities in the 108 countries exceed WHO safe limits . In 2017, China's PM2.5 averaged 47 µg/m3  and it increased to 65 µg/m3 in the heavy industrial zone of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region . These levels are more than 4 and 6 times the WHO limits.
It is imperative to reduce the health risks of PM2.5. For life span, global reduction of PM2.5 to WHO-recommended levels would be the equivalent of globally eradicating breast and lung cancer together .
Many purchase facemasks to try to prevent the harm from PM2.5. In 2016, the global mask market is $2.7 billion, and is expected to grow to $4 billion in 2022 . In China, the sales of medical masks on the Suning platform increased by 546% from October to November 2018 . According to 3M, an international brand that currently dominates the Chinese mask market , sales in China are growing by double-digits .
But there's a fundamental problem: masks don't really protect. In a study  of nine brands of “anti PM2.5” masks available in the Chinese market, only one brand consistently met even the lower N95 standard, a US standard that requires masks to remove 95% of air particulate matter . Some brands only removed 70% of particulate . In 2016, China issued the national standard for daily protective masks (GB/T 32610-2016) . The standard defines a maximum protection level A against 500 µg PM2.5/m3 .
In fact, all masks suffer from a common fatal flaw: leakage . Masks work only when tightly sealed against the skin. Any gap caused by inappropriate mask size, fit, facial hair or especially motion of the user breaks the seal and lets polluted air in. Masks are then useless, regardless of their potential protection levels .
A tightly sealed mask, however, hinders breathing . This limits its use by people with breathing and heart difficulties . Fogged glasses are common. Importantly, eyes are left exposed, leading to cataract and other problems.
Facemasks thus have intrinsic problems. They are not a good solution to protect health from air pollution. We need more innovative ways to tackle the problems.
WEI LI, HOST:
People wear masks to reduce health damage caused by air pollution such as smog. However, traditional masks have to seal to the face regardless of the level of mask protection. These standard masks are also not suitable for children and are usually too large to form a good seal. In addition, wearing these masks cause internal accumulation of heat, moisture and carbon dioxide, making them uncomfortable to wear. More importantly, these masks do not protect the eyes, causing increasingly serious eye health problems. Dr. John Wilson, Scientist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and Founder of Black Rhino, join us today to talk about how his masks can solve the above problems.
LI: Hey there, John.
LI: So what are the advantages of your product compared to the masks on the market?
WILSON: The key advantage of the Aero is that it creates a personal clean space to give the user comprehensive protection of the entire respiratory system AND the eyes.
LI: Including the eyes?
WILSON: Yes, typically people know that pollution injures your lungs and can give you lung cancer but they don’t know that it also damages your eyes and causes conjunctivitis, cataract, and even damages kids eyes so badly that they then need glasses! The Journal of Global Health indicated that the prevalence of cataract in China was 22% in 2015; this is predicted to increase to a whopping 33% in 2020.
LI: This is shocking data worthy of vigilance and action.
WILSON: We wanted to provide a full range of protection, so we designed the Aero to be comfortable and quick to put on while providing fully protection of the eyes, nose and face. The Aero is a multi-purpose system which gives the user the protection of clean air in a wide variety of activities: you can wear it while walking or jogging, it’s perfect for riding a bike and it will clean the interior air of a car when you drive. The visor even blocks UV.
LI: How are other products on the market?
WILSON: If you want to protect your loves ones and yourself, you need an Aero because the products available right now to consumers in China just don’t do a good job. On one hand you’ve got wearable electric devices that don’t work and on the other hand masks.
LI: What’s the problem with the masks today?
WILSON: Masks resist breathing, making it harder and more laborsome, they do not protect the eyes, they fog up glasses and they only work correctly with a perfect seal against your skin. Glasses, jewelry, facial hair or even just the wrong size of mask will cause them to fail. Beyond that, a perfect seal requires a lot of pressure against your skin, which is of course very uncomfortable, and because of their size, masks almost never seal on a child’s face!
LI: You mentioned that your product creates a clean space. Tell us about it.
WILSON: The Aero creates your own private clean atmosphere right where you need it: in front of your face. Unlike masks, it gives zero resistance to breathing, it doesn’t directly contact the face, it’s comfortable to wear and it doesn’t result in fogged glasses.
LI: What is the core technology behind your product?
WILSON: We used high-efficiency particulate, or HEPA, air filtration technology combined with activated charcoal. To qualify as a HEPA filter, by industry standards it must remove 99.97% of particles that have a size greater-than-or-equal-to 0.3 µm.
LI: So it is far enough to remove PM2.5.
WILSON: Yes, it is. These filters work by entrapping particles in a mesh of fibers. However, HEPA filters do not remove smells so our design also incorporates an additional layer of activated charcoal. This layer absorbs pollutant molecules by trapping them inside the pore structure of the carbon substrate. It removes volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and odors.
LI: How long does it take for consumers to replace the filters, are they expensive?
WILSON: Our filters are unique, cost between $5 – $10 and typically last about a month. However if the smog levels are very low, they will last longer and of course if the air is very bad, it might need to be replaced more often.
LI: Are consumers willing to wear your products in multiple application scenarios?
WILSON: We strived to make the design elegant, generous and exquisite while at the same time being convenient, easy to put on and comfortable. It’s light so you can wear it for a long time without discomfort. The Aero is something you want to wear and something you want to be seen in. In addition, we can co-brand with other business partners and create modified designs to meet specific needs.
LI: What is the feedback from the market?
WILSON: The next Aero version will be for children and simultaneous to that we’ve experienced strong demand from industrial sectors. I add that our unique filter can be customized to unique hazards when one might find in the field of manufacturing.
LI: I noticed that your product is not cheap, why?
WILSON: You have to understand that the Aero isn’t some disposable, throw out mask; this is just completely different. The Aero is a reusable, exactingly engineered platform to protect your and your family’s health through all the activities of busy people. Unlike masks, the Aero provides comfortable, comprehensive protection of your nose, mouth, throat, lungs and also your eyes. Outside of a few expensive, big and ugly industrial devices – think of welding or sand blasting – you just don’t get real protection. We also strive for affordability, and prices will drop as we reap the benefits of large-scale production.
LI: That’s why you first target the China market, right?
WILSON: China is of course a huge market where people want this kind of product, which is why we’re here. To begin, we are targeting health-conscious people who want a high-end product they can trust that really protects their health.
LI: Please tell us more about your market strategy.
WILSON: As I just said, we’re starting in China due to the need and market size. However many countries and settings have airborne hazards; think of a dentist offices where poisonous mercury is aerosolized in a fine dust, or in hospitals where we have no idea what someone might be infected with when they come in. We’ll first capture the Chinese market, then move onto India, Pakistan, and other places. Our strategy is simply to chase the biggest market first – China – and expand into other markets as the economies and health consciousness develops. In this way we will maximize return on investment.
LI: What kind of partners do you need to jointly develop overseas markets?
WILSON: We are glad to work with partners where there is business synergy and we seek partners in financing, marketing and distribution. The Chinese market is of course the largest of the world and has many, many segments. Partners will help us to reach those many segments and achieve maximum market penetration. I encourage interested potential partners to reach out to us.
LI: John, why do you want to invent a mask?
WILSON: That’s a sad story. A Chinese American friend of mine has friends who were diagnosed with very rare cancers in China. He would come to me with questions about how to save them and after it happened to a fourth friend of his, I decided to do something to help people.
LI: I am sorry to hear about that.
WILSON: Airborne hazards are present all over the world even, for example, in California where I have family and where they had major wild fires. We need to be able to protect ourselves and our families, and those we love. I invented the Aero so we have a product that really works and gives full protection to the entire respiratory system and eyes.
LI: So the Aero is a product all about care and love.
WILSON: Really, this is a product born of care for people to keep our families safe. I add that the profit of this company will allow us to pursue other unique technologies to improve health, wellness and the environment. We have to remember that we leave everything – everything good AND everything bad – to our kids. I want the next generation to inherit something we’re proud to pass on.
WEI LI, HOST: John, thanks for sharing your touching story and impressive product. I believe that a love-filled wish, innovative products, and a diligent team will surely convey care and value to the society. Dr. John Wilson, Founder of Black Rhino. Good luck!
WILSON: Thanks for having me! Wei! This is wonderful! Happy New Year!