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New Travel Accessory for Beijing: Gas Masks

A women wearing a mask rides a bicycle on the street during severe pollution on Jan. 23 in Beijing
A women wearing a mask rides a bicycle on the street during severe pollution on Jan. 23 in BeijingPhotograph by Feng Li/Getty Images

As I prepare for an upcoming trip to Beijing, both expat and Chinese friends have been sending me suggestions of the best gas mask to buy. An item considered rare or unnecessary as of late 2012 is now highly recommended for outdoor commutes during Beijing’s smoggiest days. But which mask should I use?

One friend, who works for an environmental nonprofit in Beijing, advised: “I have a Sportsta mask made by Respro, a U.K. company, which has a replaceable filter, which you can replace every 2 to 3 months with regular use. However, size-wise, it’s not great for women, especially women who have smaller faces.” To function optimally, he added, “It should be a snug fit.” Ideally, I should locate a store in the U.S. that sells them, but as fallback, such high-end foreign-made gas masks are now selling briskly on Taobao.com, China’s leading e-retailer.