A second-generation mask called the B2 is a group of young entrepreneurs’ answer to an urgent need during the coronavirus pandemic.

Developed by a startup company called Breathe99, the reusable B2 respirator mask protects its wearer from 99% of harmful contaminants while reducing filter cost and waste by half.

That’s key to the team behind the B2, who emphasize the “sustainable protection” aspect. The mask is comparable to the disposable N95 mask so much in demand, only it’s reusable.

Team member Julia Duvall is a White Bear High School grad who is bringing her skill set to the Minneapolis company and its small group of designers, engineers and developers. Duvall has a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota in apparel product development. Her role is product designer for the textile overlay portion of the mask.

What makes the B2 unique is a reusable, patent-pending face-piece that flexes to your face for a comfortable, protective seal.

The textile overlay helps create the seal to ensure the mask is secure, Duvall said. The fabric is similar to that used in athletic wear: breathable, stretchy and comfortable.

The hygienic mask is easy to clean and reuse. It’s dishwasher safe. The fabric overlay is machine washable. The filters are considered affordable and easy to reload every few days, depending on usage.

Duvall noted that every mask sold supports donations to those in need of respiratory protection.

According to the company website, breathe99.com, the mask has been tested for particle, bacterial and viral filtration in accordance with industry standards. Results show bacteria and viral filtration levels greater than 99.9%, meaning it is designed to meet N99 standards, which is higher than N95. It is also noted that the group is in the process of completing lengthy National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health certification for FDA approval.

Four years in the making, the mask is the aspiration of Max Bock-Aronson, a mechanical engineer from Minneapolis. Time spent in Singapore piqued his interest in reusable respirator protection, so he set out to create a better mask that can help save lives. The COVID-19 crisis fast-tracked his mission.

A former adviser in the wearable technology lab where Duvall worked as a research assistant recommended her to the team. Like the others involved, she is using her talents to help save lives.

Breathe99 has a Kickstarter campaign to ramp up production quickly for frontline health care workers. A campaign last year for the first-generation mask did not meet its goal. The B1 did not have the same filtration capabilities but was designed more for commuters to filter out pollen, mold, dust, smoke and allergens. It was not intended for medical use. Efforts were revitalized to improve the filtration due to the pandemic, so a campaign has restarted.

The company is partnering with medical device manufacturers to make the masks. They are taking preorders and hope to have production online in six weeks. Masks sell for $59.

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