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Time Magazine declares MN facemask one of 2020’s best inventions

Published: Dec. 14, 2020 at 5:43 PM CST
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MINNEAPOLIS (Dakota News Now) - Max Bock-Aronson, the CEO and co-founder of the ‘Breathe99-B2′ facemask, grew up in the Twin Cities and wanted to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. He crossed state lines and earned that degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but it was when he was studying abroad in Singapore that he took a course in air pollution and engineering that inspired his current product that Time Magazine has deemed one of 2020′s best inventions. It taught him about pollution sources, how it migrates, different filtration mechanics, and how it affects us physiologically. Little did he know that the location he was in seven years ago would help perfect his device.

“I was learning that and I was also living in a place where for the first time I kind of had to confront the fact that breathing clean air is a privilege,” said Max as he reflected on his time growing up in the Midwest. “I would go on runs and my throat would hurt on days where the air pollution or the air quality was poor.”

When Max was working on the facemask, COVID-19 was not in the picture; however, he was aware that people in Asia wear masks more often for common colds because of the immediate concern for others and out of politeness. The main obstacle he wanted to overcome was air pollution, and two of the successful elements needed to protect someone from that include a good seal on the face and high-efficiency filters. The material he uses for his filter is the same type that 3M uses for their N95 masks. He believes that only replacing the small filters on the mask is more sustainable, cost-effective, and quicker to produce.

Creating the product has been attainable because of all the manufactures being local to the Twin Cities and outside of Chicago. Max says this has been great for the growth of the product because of the ability to drive 15 minutes between key vendors within the metropolitan area. Right now the price for the mask is about $60, but Max says part of that is because production is still in relatively small quantities. Eventually, he would like to scale up production domestically so everyone in the Midwest (and the country) can be equipped with a more cost-effective and efficient mask. Ideally, this would protect people from prevalent issues like coronavirus, but also wildfire smoke, and other harmful pathogens.

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