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    • Please join me in welcoming Andrew Kessler of Scough for a Cake panel this Monday, April 15 starting at 6:30 PM ET. This panel is accepting your questions, so please ask away in advance!

      A bit about Andrew: Andrew Kessler is the founder of Scough, a popular wearable health-tech accessory lauded for its visionary, design-driven approach to public health problems. Scough is a product that filters pollution, smog, tear gas and/or anything else that gets in the way of big, easy breaths. Scough makes scarves and bandanas that hold the highest-quality bio-defense grade active carbon filters on the planet. The brand focuses on a secure and thoughtful design that lets you fight pollution but is still a joy to wear. Scough filters are tested in an independent lab to make sure the technology and design are working hard for our customers. 

    • The Scough inspiration came from after a trip to Asia, where I noticed that people who were feeling sick would put a mask on their face. And I thought “wow, that’s such a polite nice way of being, in contrast to many people I know, who are always hiding the fact that they are sick and go to work and even if they have the flu say it’s just allergies.” So I tucked that thought away, and I was reading about a materials advancement that allowed you to weave active carbon into fabric. So I thought what if we could design apparel that North Americans would wear on their face? Because clearly we don’t like wearing masks on our faces, so what if we could design things North Americans would wear to cut down on flu, or spreading disease. So when we started researching the project, we realized that people having the flu or not getting vaccines is a HUGE global problem, with a large amount of deaths every year. And then there’s a huge particular matter pollution problem. The more scientists look at this, the more harmful they see it is - there have been a few studies that show the link between life expectancy and living near an automotive thoroughfare. So many damning studies on asthma. And just the detrimental effects of even short-term air pollution, the effects on children’s health, there’s a lot of bad statistics the more they look. I think 2016 was a big JAMA report that air pollution contributes to respiratory tract infections that lead to  an extra 540,000 deaths in children below 5. So particular matter pollution is bad. And has incredibly deleterious effects on health. The more we look, the more we see. 

    • It’s always ongoing. The thing we’re trying for is to design a product with a very effective filter, but is also wearable and looks nice. It’s tough, because the more effective the filter, the more uncomfortable it usually is. If you want a perfectly effective filter, you have to seal your face off, but try wearing something like that for longer than a few minutes, it’s very hot and uncomfortable. So we were looking at designs that were a bit more flowing, comfortable, but had a more effective filter, and you’d keep it close to your face so it would act as a seal when you breathe in and out. We tried with lots of users, and did lab testing to test the actual effectiveness of the filter itself. But it’s ongoing.

    • A lot of it was based, the initial designs, was thinking about subway rides. We have a big subset of users who are pregnant women who ride the subway because they are sensitive to smell, and activated carbon is a good odor filter as well! So a lot of the initial design was thinking about commuters - subway commuters, bike riders, when you’re outside biking you’re exposed to a lot of exhaust. So biking, walking, riding the train with mostly other people, and outside the air around you. And that laddered up into airplane folks, people riding airplanes: the air is recycled and very dry, so we do 2 things, we create a micro-climate where it’s a little bit more humid and your mucus membranes work better, and then we’re filtering the air for you. 

    • I’ve personally purchased several of them as gifts for friends and family in flu season. What’s the best way to use a Scough to stay healthy during those tricky winter months?

    • So one, give it to people that are sick, and ask them to wear it. And also when you’re around sick people, you can wear yours, even if they aren’t wearing one. For flu and things, it helps when you’re in a crowded space, but if there are days with a heavy pollen count or particular matter pollution, then it’s a good idea to wear it when you’re outside.

    • There are several bikers and bicyclists in the images on your website. How do Scoughs help with outdoor activities in pollution-heavy cities?

    • So Scoughs for biking are popular because bicyclists are exposed to a lot of auto exhaust. Dust, smog, pollen if you have allergies - when you’re biking, you’re exposed to all of it. I think that’s why Scoughs are popular with bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts. 

    • As far as those with compromised immune systems, I’m sure they find Scough to be a game-changer. Could you share with us some stories of how people have used Scoughs when they’re dealing with a health challenge?

    • We get a lot of nice mail from people who have doctors who suggested they protect themselves when they go outside, but they don’t want to wear an ugly mask, so this gives them the confidence or freedom they are regular. So that’s a nice heartwarming thought. It’s a way to be immunocompromised and participate, spend more time outside. We get folks who feel like it’s changed their lives, which is a nice thought. I’ve heard from people getting chemotherapy, anyone who is immunosuppressed. For us, we want people to ask their doctors what the best course of treatment is for them, because everyone’s medical needs are different. But we’re glad when doctors recommend us. We do get nice notes from folks whose physicians recommended Scoughs to them. 

    • Good question. We’re trying to get more regular about it - I think quarterly is our plan. Things happen outside of our control, and then stuff goes out of stock quickly, like when there’s a warm weather incident like the wildfires last year, we ran out of bandanas. We will be introducing more regular styles on the quarter. We made some upgrades in some of the design features of the construction, which we thought were important just for comfort and wearability. So we’re slowly getting a groove on production. It’s been challenging, because demand is so spiky, with incidents that are happening with more frequency - crazy weather that causes particulate pollution, like the wildfires, were impossible to predict. We’re a small team with R&D trying to do our best!

    • Ooo, good question. It is just the beginning. We think there are a lot of interesting products in the space - there’s an element of mindfulness that you’re remembering to take care of yourself and others when you wear a product like the Scough. I’m super-into meditation, and I think wearing a Scough is a part of a suite of products that remind you to breathe mindfully, breathe mindfully, think about where and what you’re doing, protecting the people around you, and taking care of yourself. 

    • Well, one of our product designers has a big beard, and one of the reasons we changed some of the design from V1 was to accommodate people with different headshapes and beards. So I think you should give it a whirl, and if you have issues, send me a note. But we tried really hard to accommodate people with beards.

    • Mmm! So we do have some lighter-weight ones. Usually people opt for the bandana, as it's less material. We're working on designs balancing the lightness of the material but also being sturdy enough to hold the filter in place. We have some lighter weight fabrics on the way, but the bandana is a good choice for summer.