As soaring pollution levels in Beijing trigger the city's first ever red alert, Chinese consumers may find help from an unlikely source. A British company has developed a hi-tech mask it claims can eliminate 99 percent of viruses and bacteria. Ivor Bennett reports.
You've heard of selling tea to China. Well what about pollution masks? An ubiquitous presence on Beijing's smog-choked streets. SOUNDBITE (English) CHRISTOPHER DOBBING, FOUNDER AND CEO, CAMBRIDGE MASK COMPANY, SAYING: "Expats who live in India are very familiar with Delhi Belly, and of course there's the Beijing cough which you get in your first few months." And that's when Christopher Dobbing had his light bulb moment. Starting the Cambridge Mask Company, that sells to China but manufactures in Britain. This model's called the Hamlet. There's also the Sherlock, the Churchill, the Prince George... ...you get the idea. SOUNDBITE (English) CHRISTOPHER DOBBING, FOUNDER AND CEO, CAMBRIDGE MASK COMPANY, SAYING: "If you look to China they really like British products. It may sound silly but 160 million people watched the last season of Downton Abbey and so there's just this natural affinity with British products and Britishness." The sales certainly reflect that. Growth of 40 percent a month since entering the market in September. It's not just a fashion statement though. Sewn into the material is a carbon filter used by the British military. That eliminates 99 percent of viruses, bacteria and pollution. SOUNDBITE (English) CHRISTOPHER DOBBING, FOUNDER AND CEO, CAMBRIDGE MASK COMPANY, SAYING: "The carbon material we use is about a 100 times more expensive than other carbon cloths that you could use. So it costs us a lot to make a mask, particularly in Britain. But as I say we get a really good combination of quality labour and quality materials that means we come out with a really good quality mask." But, with a price tag to match. At 22 pounds, the masks are more than 10 times the price of disposable ones. Living in this though, some think it's worth it.