I have spent most of my adult life backpacking through some of the toughest places on earth - spanning more than a decade on the open road. I have traveled through war-ravaged towns, hanged out around refugee camps, saw poverty at its worse (and it was bad), climbed many mountains, got soaked in the rain, ate pancakes for a whole week, and met lots of exciting people.
I have endured many unpleasant circumstances all throughout my travels, but none was comparable to the high levels of pollution from motor vehicles and rubbish fires in megacities such as Lagos and Delhi.
I can't help but still look back on those days with deep fondness.
The air quality in Accra, Ghana, where I currently reside, is at health-damaging level. I wake up most days with smoke from residential trash fires floating in my room.
Air pollution is a leading risk factor for premature death in Ghana, linked to diseases such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory infections.
The pollution levels are far worse in the urban core, where tailpipe exhaust emission from aged cars and smoke from rubbish fires clog roadways and fill the lungs of city dwellers.
Poor air quality in developing countries is expected to worsen as their urban population and motor vehicle numbers increase. Because there is no escape for most of us living in poor and developing cities from this public health challenge, I started questioning my role in such a future. I started the AirMask & Textiles Company with the goal to design easy to use, breathable, effective and high-performance air filtration masks which works for most environments, and for urban dwellers everywhere.
Thanks to the dedication of my team, ATC Masks today are used for countless applications worldwide, including for protection against PM2.5, dust, allergens, smoke, particles found in air pollution, and bacteria and germs. They are useful for everyone, particularly for sensitive individuals and people who need protection against poor air quality at home, workplace and the outdoors.
The AirMask & Textiles Company is involved in a lot of community outreach programs to help communities in developing countries affected by air pollution. 30% of every mask sold is deposited into a special fund which is frequently used to support local communities.
Visiting Christ The King, a private school near the Jamestown Lighthouse in Accra, Ghana. This school was so poor that they did not have the roughly $5/per week to power their electricity when we visited.
Our programs include donation of free particulate and gas masks to poor and vulnerable communities, and setting up low-cost air quality monitoring networks.
Without data showing national or international standards are being breached, there will be no urge for city authorities to act on air pollution levels. We are concerned about this because only a small fraction of developing countries are monitoring the air they breathe.
You help communities such as Agbogbloshie, Ghana, whenever you purchase our masks.