Following his father’s death earlier this year, due to COVID-19, Adrian Critchlow, co-founder of popular travel site, booking.com was inspired to develop a reusable, environmentally friendly, industrial-strength mask to protect Australians from the virus.
Launched in Melbourne by Critchlow and co-founder Mehdi Qerim, the Active Mask aims to provide wearers with a more effective product that eliminates several issues including discomfort and environmental impact.
“Many single use and fabric mask designs have significant drawbacks that limit their efficacy putting the wearer at potential risk and they are made of melt-blown plastic, which ends up in landfill or our waterways,” said Critchlow.
With Australians, particularly Victorians, likely to be required to wear masks for some time into the future, Critchlow said the humble facemask remain a critical piece of equipment for many years to come. With this in mind, Critchlow and co set out to design a mask that is “reusable for life”. The ActiveMask is specifically created to solve a number of concerns users have with existing products.
“We’re already seeing hundreds of them [masks] being audited and removed from Australia’s register of therapeutic goods given they don’t adequately prevent infection. ActiveMask is a high-quality mask appropriate for both personal and professional use, with top quality filter materials (designed for NASA and the British Army) for sustained and superior protection,” Critchlow said.
To ensure maximum comfort for the wearer, ActiveMask features a soft silicone seal. It is also equipped with a multi-layer filter that can be detached for cleaning, sterilising or replacing. The mask has a hard internal surface to reduce the build-up of moisture in the mask. Critchlow says this makes the mask “safer and more comfortable to wear and easier to clean”.
A key feature of the multi-layered mask is the layer of Activated Carbon, According to the founder this technology was originally designed for the British Army for chemical and biological protection, but it makes the perfect solution for everyday use. The mask also includes a P2/N95 filter material originally designed for NASA. Unlike the majority of N95 filters that are derived from plastic the from wool with the natural fibre providing a highly effective natural filtration with low breathing resistance. The result is better airflow and a more comfortable mask.
Critchlow says the mask design not only protects the user but those around them. Its patented exhale valve and cutting-edge N95 filtration system purify both the air being inhaled, and the air being exhaled. This means that everyone, including the wearer and everyone around them, remains safe.
“We know this is particularly important for emergency services workers who share small spaces with others and come into close proximity with members of the general public.
“In addition to safety, we also had the environment top of mind. We wanted to address one of the big issues with disposable masks and the predicted surge of ocean pollution. A number of discarded single-use masks are washing up on shorelines and littering the seabed. Some disposable masks have a life span of more than 400 years and can have a devastating environmental impact for our planet,” he said.
Critchlow says plans are underway for large-scale manufacture of the mask, with ActiveMask set to create 100s of jobs.
Co-founder Mehdi Qerim said the company is not only keen to keep Australians safe, but also support local manufacturing and jobs.
“ActiveMask will be entirely designed and constructed right here in Victoria. It is important that Australia develops its own supply pipeline for sophisticated, protective masks,” Mr Qerim said. We have already had enquiries from the UK, US and Asia so we see a sizable export opportunity for a quality manufactured Australian mask.
“We are in the final stages of scouting locations for our manufacturing facilities. Currently, Geelong, Ballarat, and Port Melbourne are the short-listed sites. We currently estimate that we will be producing commercial volumes of ActiveMasks within eight to 12 weeks,” he said.
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