According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution kills an estimated 7 million people worldwide every year, and data shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. It’s no surprise that air quality has become a concern. Toxic air is a global epidemic, and the fight to purify the air we breathe is heating up, with individuals, activist organizations, technologists, and entrepreneurs no longer willing to wait on governments to solve the problem.
Air pollution is a risk not only outside but indoors as well. “Indoor pollution is a very serious problem and health threat, not just in China but worldwide,” Sieren Ernst, founder of environmental consultancy Ethics & Environment, told The Guardian. “Most people spend 90% of their time indoors, and the exposures that we are getting from that time remain largely unexamined.”
In South Korea, air purifier sales have tripled since 2016, with the government recently announcing a plan to install the devices in all kindergarten and pre-K classes. In China, where severe air pollution has been linked to an estimated 1.6 million preventable deaths, as many as 7.5 million devices were sold last year, up from 3.1 million in 2013.
Clean air is a requisite to overall wellness. Health- and wellness-conscious, environmentally aware consumers are taking reduction of exposure to air pollution into their own hands, limiting the well-documented health risks associated with the inhalation of fine and ultra-fine particulates.
Action through art: An immersive art installation British artist Michael Pinsky called “Pollution Pods” captures the unique scents of the world’s most polluted cities, forcing guests to experience what millions endure every day because of the human impact on the atmosphere.
Halotherapy: Basking in natural salt caves and inhaling salt is a centuries-old European practice. Studies have confirmed its health benefits, and salt is having a resurgence. Spas are recreating the natural salt cave microclimate using technology that infuses pure salt and negative ions into the air, and home salt-inhalation devices are on the rise.
Personal air pollution sensors: Tiny pocket-size sensors measuring carbon dioxide, ozone levels, and particulate matter will become ubiquitous. Crowdsourcing of the data will enable real-time and accurate measurement of air quality, alerting people about problem areas.
Smart, personal air purifiers: Combine a sensor with a personal air purifier and a smartphone app and you have Airbubbl, a new product that focuses on cleaning the air that is polluting the inside of your car, and WYND, which promises to “create a bubble of clean air around you by removing dust, allergens, smoke and pollution from the air wherever you go…freshening the air in a car, plane, train or hotel room!”
Fashion fights back: Urban air pollution masks have become a fashion statement, and Swedish-based Airinum is bringing the very Asian-centric trend to Europe. There is also clothing that changes colors as it monitors pollution in real time, and the promise of clothing that eliminates pollution before it hits your skin.
Anti-pollution skincare: Air quality is not only a health issue, but the toxins also create environmental stressors on the skin—irritation, inflammation, and premature aging. Anti-pollution skincare is becoming well established in beauty ranges especially in Asia, addressing both protection and repair, with sales soaring. Anti-pollution or environmental protection products could evolve to a stand-alone category similar to sun.
Photo: Holger Link via Unsplash