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Utah Business

These local companies are doing something about Utah's deadly air quality.

This Company Is Tackling Utah’s Deadly Air

If you live along Utah’s Wasatch Front, you have probably noticed the heavy smog that frequently hangs over the area, especially in the wintertime. These air pollutants pose a major threat to citizens’ health. According to The World Health Organization, air pollution causes an estimated seven million deaths worldwide every year. The Environmental Performance Index EPI says it is the number one environmental health threat on the planet. And unfortunately, things are not looking up, the air is getting more dangerous to breathe all over the world. 

“The average adult breathes about 20,000 liters of air each day and takes about six million breaths per year. Breathing clean air is fundamental for a healthy life, yet given the attention people put on eating well, and drinking filtered water, it seems strange to me that they are not questioning what is in the air around them and recognizing the greatest risk to their health could be what they are breathing in,” says Bruce Lorange, founder and CEO of O2TODAY, a Utah-based company that makes air-filtering face masks. 

The harmful effects

Per the Utah Department of Health, the primary air pollutants of concern in Utah are ozone and particulate matter (PM). Particulate matter is small enough that it can travel deep into the lungs and through the bloodstream. This may cause a range of health issues. Some are short term—such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, and irritation of the throat, nose, and eyes. Others can be permanent or have lasting effects—including lung cancer, organ damage, respiratory diseases, heart attack, and stroke. The elderly and people with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease are most at risk for these problems. 

To quote Michael Greenstone, the director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, “Particulate air pollution shortens lives globally, even more than cigarettes. There is no greater current risk to human health.” 

Not only does air pollution pose extensive health dangers, but inversions can take the fun out of winters in Utah. Especially for people who enjoy snow sports. So, what can the average person do?

Air filtering masks to the rescue

Fortunately, O2TODAY created products to help tackle this very problem. Their urban face masks utilize new technology to filter the air so you can still enjoy outdoor recreation in the winter without getting sick. 

Lorange, an entrepreneur previously living overseas, spent a lot of time traveling for work in China and Korea― places where urban air pollution is a recognized public health threat. He also lived in Japan, where wearing protective masks, often known as “courtesy masks,” is a common social practice. 

“I quickly realized there were no options for products that were comfortable, easy to breathe through, truly protective, and that didn’t make you look like you stepped out of a hospital or a post-apocalyptic Sci-fi movie,” Lorange says, so he started O2TODAY in 2016. 

“My first step [in creating my company] was to do extensive market research and I worked with an organization to conduct focus groups with hundreds of mask wearers in Asia.” 

“My next step, knowing that air pollution and poor air quality was an “un-sexy” topic, was to find a celebrated designer to partner with to make a beautiful, as well as effective, product. I partnered with Marcel Wanders, who is a globally recognized designer that has worked with brands like Puma, MAC cosmetics, and Louis Vuitton on numerous consumer goods products.” 

Since wearing masks is a habit that most of the world is not accustomed to, Lorange knew he needed to create a compelling message to help people overcome any social stigma of mask-wearing and increase understanding about the potential health risks of harmful air. He brought onboard Derek Lockwood, the former Worldwide Design Director of Saatchi & Saatchi, to develop the brand identity and help build a world-class brand from the ground up. 

O2TODAY’s protective masks are called O2SafeAir. They are customizable and designed to deliver healthy breathing and affordable protection against air pollutants and pathogens without compromising style, a true business feat.