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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 March, 2004, 00:01 GMT
New device for asthma sufferers
The breathing device could help asthmatics living in large cities
Asthmatics living in polluted cities could finally get a breath of fresh air through a gadget developed by a UK sports scientist.

Purebreathe, created by Dr Alison McConnell at the University of Brunel, protects the user from dust particles and exhaust gases.

She produced it with the help of product designer Johannes Paul from the Royal College of Art.

It can trap particles as tiny as bacteria.

'Better than a mask'

Dr McConnell said there were chunks of carbon and lead present in exhaust gases and other environmental pollutants that were harmful to the lungs.

These particles deposit on the lung where they can cause an inflammatory response.

"Most asthmatics already have a slightly inflamed respiratory system, so breathing in these particles can trigger an exacerbated response, namely an asthma attack," she told BBC News Online.

Dr Alison McConnell
Dr Alison McConnell developed Purebreathe
The filter, which has been tested in clinical trials, works like a sieve, using electrostatic fibres to attract and hold particles before they enter the mouth.

Dr McConnell and Mr Paul took the filter, which was created by another company, and married it to a hi-tech design which they claim makes it far superior to the usual pollutant protective masks.

They say the resistance in standard masks actually makes breathing more difficult, and the material they are made from - neoprene - does not allow the skin to breathe, so traps heat and moisture.

Purebreathe is made from low energy recyclable materials, and is designed to be comfortable to wear.

They are currently finding a company to license the product, which they believe could sell for just 20.

'Wider problem'

Around 5.1 million people in the UK suffer from asthma, and numbers are on the increase.

Pollution, diet, and hormone replacement therapy have all been linked to the rising rates.

Caroline Moya at the National Asthma Campaign said pollution triggered asthma symptoms in about 81% of sufferers - around 4 million people.

"Pollution is a big problem because wherever people are they are breathing it in, whether on the Underground, sitting in the car, or walking down the street.

"We need to look at this as a wider problem to try and reduce the level of gas emissions and fumes in the air."

Dr McConnell is an expert in sport and exercise physiology at the University of Brunel.

She previously helped to develop a device called Powerbreathe, which strengthens the breathing muscles.

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23 Feb 04  |  Scotland

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