Utah entrepreneur fights pollution with wearable air filter


SALT LAKE CITY — Numerous studies show the cardiovascular harm caused by air pollution in the Salt Lake Valley, and a local company has developed a wearable air filter to help others breathe less of the harmful particulates.

According to Dr. Denitza Blagev, a pulmonologist, lung disease physician and respiratory researcher with Intermountain Medical Center, patients who are already sensitive to the polluted air have worsening lung conditions every year.

“In general, people are better off staying indoors when the air is polluted,” Dr. Blagev said.

Jeff Morton, founder of outdoor apparel company jaMo threads, was inspired by his 4-year-old son, Cole, who struggled to breathe last February due to air pollution.

“There were points where I saw him grasping for air and also getting tears in his eyes," Morton said.

Morton gave Cole a regular medical mask when he had to go outside, but Cole refused to wear it.

“I think he thought it looked silly; he just didn't like it,” explained Morton.

Morton decided to try putting a carbon mask inside one his company's gaiters, which are neck warmers used for winter sports.

“Cole wore it! So we thought about the concept and started looking into different types of masks that would help people with sensitivity to the pollution breathe better," Morton said.

The next step was to get the mask formally certified to filter out particles.

“The certification basically says your mask blocks 95 or greater of PM 2.5 particulates which are the common particulate size,” Morton said.

The tests to certify the masks were expensive, Morton spent more than $5,000.

The masks last, on average, about three years and they sell on Morton’s website for just under $30.00.

 

“I don't feel great about benefiting from the pollution that we have outside. That's why we donate a portion of our revenue to groups in Utah who are lobbying the legislature for ways to make our air cleaner," Morton said.

The masks are also recyclable. Morton asks when you are done using the mask, or believe it is time for a new one, you mail it back to his company and he will repurpose parts of it and donate the gaiter to the local homeless shelters.