Air quality has been a widely discussed topic for centuries; in that time, our understanding of it and our ability to combat air pollution have come a long way. With each new challenge the world has pivoted, identifying solutions that help us maintain healthy, breathable air. With technology progressing amid continuous developments to our environmental conditions, our quest for cleaner air has only become more complex and urgent with the passage of time.
indoor air quality has improved greatly over the past century
The Great Smog of London
In December 1952 a thick, yellow haze known as the Great Smog descended upon London. This deadly smog was caused by a combination of industrial emissions, coal burning and stagnant weather conditions, resulting in the deaths of thousands of residents and leading to long-term health consequences for many more. This tragic event served as a wake-up call, prompting the British government to pass the Clean Air Act of 1956. This act led to a significant decline in the use of coal for domestic heating and the establishment of “smoke control areas” in towns and cities.
The decline of indoor smoking
Just a few short decades ago, indoor smoking was a common practice all around the world, and many people were still unaware of the adverse health effects of second-hand smoke. However, as more research emerged about the dangers of passive smoking, governments started implementing regulations to protect non-smokers. These efforts, combined with public awareness campaigns, led to the widespread ban of smoking in public places, contributing to improved indoor air quality globally.
still more to do: what’s the biggest threat to indoor air quality?
A significant, and often-overlooked, factor in indoor air quality is the reliance on traditional cooking and heating methods that use combustion. Around 2.4 billion people globally depend on open fires or inefficient stoves for cooking, accounting for around a third of the world’s population. These appliances are often fueled by kerosene, coal or biomass (comprising wood, animal dung and crop waste), all of which produce noxious pollutants that make the air unsafe to breathe in households where they’re burned.
The consequences of these widespread cooking and heating methods are gravely concerning:
Mortality rates: As of 2020, household air pollution was linked to an estimated 3.2 million deaths annually. Tragically, this statistic includes over 237,000 children under the age of 5.
Combined impact: When we analyze the joint effects of both ambient and household air pollution, the death toll reaches a staggering 6.7 million premature deaths every year.
Health implications: Those who are not killed by the polluted air in their homes don’t get off lightly, as it also leads to severe noncommunicable diseases including strokes, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and even lung cancer.
Disproportionate burden on women and children: The traditional roles in many societies place women and children at the forefront of household chores like cooking and collecting firewood; consequently, these groups bear the brunt of the health risks associated with exposure to indoor air pollutants.
outdoor air quality issues we must quickly address
A relatively new challenge that’s gained significant attention in recent years is the presence of microplastics in the air. Originating from a variety of sources, including the breakdown of larger plastic debris, synthetic textiles and tire wear, these tiny particles can be easily inhaled and may pose severe health risks. As we become ever more reliant on plastic products, the need to address this problem only continues to grow. Researchers are working diligently to understand the full impact of airborne microplastics on both our health and the environment.
The ever-increasing threat of wildfires
The ongoing rise in global temperatures, partly caused by human activity, has led to more frequent and severe wildfires in recent times. Not only do these fires devastate communities and ravage ecosystems, they also release massive amounts of particulate matter (PM) and toxic compounds into the air. Regions affected by wildfires experience hazardous air quality levels, impacting the health of both immediately surrounding communities and those living downwind. The dense smoke from wildfires can travel thousands of miles, emphasizing the global nature of our air quality challenge.
The ongoing battle against industrial pollution
Despite technological advancements, power plants and factories remain significant contributors to global air pollution. Their emissions, which are laden with harmful particulates and gases, threaten both our ecology and human health. The shift towards greener alternatives, while promising, is often met with resistance due to economic, political and infrastructural challenges. While some industries have begun adopting renewable energy sources and advanced filtration systems, many still rely on outdated, polluting methods. Addressing this issue is not just about future innovations but also enforcing stricter regulations in the here and now. The battle against industrial air pollution is far from over, and immediate, collective action is essential.
Looking to the future: The positive impact of wearable air purifiers
As we confront the universal air quality challenges faced by the modern world, the need for personal protection has never been more evident. Wearable air purifiers like Respiray Wear A+ represent a revolutionary solution, as they offer individuals the power to take back control of the air they breathe, wherever they may be.
When it comes to tackling air quality, the journey so far has been long, winding and punctuated by significant milestones. From combatting the Great Smog of London to addressing contemporary threats like microplastics and wildfires, society’s commitment to breathing cleaner air remains unwavering. And with innovations like wearable personal air purifiers including Wear A+, the future is starting to look increasingly promising.