Pollution Chic: China's Smog Prompts Face Masks on Fashion Week Runways

PHOTO: Various style of facial mask appear at China international fashion week, Oct. 28, 2014, in Beijing.TPG/Getty Images
Various style of facial mask appear at China international fashion week, Oct. 28, 2014, in Beijing.

There's a new fashion statement hitting Chinese runways: the beautiful smog mask.

Fashion designers incorporated the pollution-blocking masks into their designs for Mercedes-Benz China Fashion Week in Beijing less than two weeks after Beijing marathoners donned masks for their 26.2-mile race on Oct. 19.

PHOTO: Pollution-blocking masks became the latest fashion statement on the runway at Fashion Week in Beijing, Oct. 28, 2014.TPG/Getty Images
Pollution-blocking masks became the latest fashion statement on the runway at Fashion Week in Beijing, Oct. 28, 2014.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization reported that more than 7 million premature deaths worldwide are linked to air pollution each year.

"Not for casual reasons are they called 'killer smogs,'" said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. "Intense smog often cause a lot of asthma and respiratory stress and can precipitate heart attacks and things like that."

Smog has consistently been a problem for industrialized China, whose thick fog of pollution is primarily the result of burning coal, said Dr. Dorr Dearborn, an environmental health expert at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. And indoor pollution in rural homes may actually be worse than outdoor pollution in cities, he said.

PHOTO: A facial mask appears at the China international fashion week, Oct. 28, 2014, in Beijing.TPG/Getty Images
A facial mask appears at the China international fashion week, Oct. 28, 2014, in Beijing.

Although a fiber painter's mask won't do much to block out the airborne particles, Dearborn said, masks called N95 and N100 masks are effective.

It was not clear what materials the fashion designers were using.

PHOTO: A model showcases designs on the runway at QIAODAN Yin Peng Sports Wear Collection show during the fourth day of the Mercedes-Benz China Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2015 at 751D.PARK, Oct. 28, 2014 in Beijing.ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images
A model showcases designs on the runway at QIAODAN Yin Peng Sports Wear Collection show during the fourth day of the Mercedes-Benz China Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2015 at 751D.PARK, Oct. 28, 2014 in Beijing.