Photos by Reuters

Fashion and politics have always been easy bedfellows. The latest issue to emerge on the catwalk? China’s pollution problem. Less than two weeks after Beijing marathoners donned face masks to run 26 miles in the thick smog, fashion designers began incorporating the gear into their designs at Mercedes-Benz China Fashion Week. The Qiadan Yin Peng Sports Wear Collection show last Wednesday, in particular, featured a variety of smog masks, stylishly coordinated with their respective ensembles.

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The runway shows ended just as several heads of state, including President Barack Obama and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, began arriving in the Chinese capital for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

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But no matter how you might spin it, smog simply isn’t sexy. Outdoor air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010—or nearly 40 percent of the world’s total—according to a study led by several scientific institutions, including the World Health Organization.

Regular painter’s masks won’t provide much protection against airborne particulate matter. Masks called masks called N95 and N100 masks are most effective. It isn’t clear, however, if the runway fare is the real McCoy, or, like most things in fashion, simply window dressing.

[Via CNN]