AIR POLLUTION: WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
If you looked at the most popular stories of 2019, there’d be a lot of talk about politics, probably quite a bit about the various world cups, but also a huge discussion around the environment.
Over the past decade, this issue has gained more and more coverage in the global media; from newspapers to public figures, the globe is advocating change - but while this is great to raise awareness, we’ve been left thinking, what’s actually going on? It's a bit like when you have to read the terms and conditions for a swanky new phone app. There's so much to read, and so many fancy words, it's information overload. And you'll usually sign up without even knowing what you're letting yourself in for, taking the ignorance is bliss approach. It would be so much easier if someone could take the most important points and lay it out straight for you, so you could know exactly what's going on, and you wouldn't end up giving away your credit card details without full knowledge of the situation.
In some ways, this is what Airhead is all about, and what our blog wants to achieve: to talk about the environment with no alternative agendas, no strings attached and definitely no unfathomable scientific language or jargon.
Airhead’s focus is on air pollution, something that affects every single being on this planet, irrespective of your age or location. And it’s something that has the potential to wreak havoc globally.
What is it?
To go back to basics, we all breathe in air, all of the time, for as long as we live. Air is a mixture of gases, typically 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 1% of a variety of other chemicals.
Air pollution occurs when various pollutants are released into the atmosphere, which is done directly, or through chemical reactions. The most common drivers of this are transport, power generation, household activities, agriculture, waste burning and industrial byproducts.
Pollution is made up of two components: harmful gases or particulate matter.
Harmful gases are just that. The most common of these are nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.
Particulate matter is known as ‘particulate pollution’ and is a very very small mixture of small particles and liquid droplets, which can be anything from acids to soil.
Essentially, if you were making a cake, particulate pollution would be the eggs and harmful gases, the flour - both equally important contributors to this disgusting, damaging cake. Also, I know most of my metaphors are obscure at best, as well as food-related, but you’ll learn to love them.
Measuring Air Pollution
Before anyone can do anything about it, we need stats. We need empirical evidence that this is a problem affecting us all, and we need it to be understood by everyone. This is where the Daily Air Quality Index (DAQI, for short) h7 Defra comes in.
The DAQI is a measurement used globally to measure the concentration of nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, mixtures of particles which are greater than 2.5 micrometres and mixtures of particles which are greater than 10 micrometres.
The index is numbered 1 – 10 and divided into four bands, where 1 = low and 10 = very high. When at moderate level or above, effects of air pollution will start to cause greater risks to health.
Click on the map to check out your local area with this map, updated daily:
The Current Situation
Air pollution has the capacity to cause both short and long-term effects on health, just from breathing in air, and it is currently the fourth largest threat to human health. 91% of the world’s population is living in an area where the WHO air quality standard had not been met.
Put simply, the AQI was dangerously low across the vast majority of the planet, leaving billions of people vulnerable and exposed to the threat of pollution.
Ambient pollution (meaning outdoor air pollution) is estimated to cause 8.8 million deaths a year. Let’s reflect on that for moment, you could literally die earlier than you would otherwise, just for going outside (scary, I know). Not only this, but air pollution puts a huge burden on the NHS, and on particularly bad days, pollution can reduce productivity in the workplace by up to 6%.
As you can see, although there have been efforts from the government to improve the air quality, since 2017 there has been a surge in air pollution which, consequently, has led to worse air quality in the UK.
What to do?
Schemes like Cycle2Work have been effective in many sectors, as well as a campaign run for children to walk to school. These are examples of excellent initiatives aimed at reducing transport emissions. Activists like Extinction Rebellion and Clean Air Now are also pushing the government to make changes, that will improve the quality of the air we breathe. Any activity that promotes clean air gets a big tick from Airhead, but we need people to feel empowered to protect themselves now.
This is where Airhead comes in...
As you may have heard on the grapevine, we are rapidly developing our game-changing Airhead pollution mask, to be launched in the coming few months. Combining the most current technology, endless comfort and effortless style, you will be able to use the mask for any form of urban commute – cycling, running or walking.
So, while we wait for changes to take place on a national and global scale, we, as individuals can both do something to make a difference AND protect ourselves while doing so.
If you want to find out more about us, find us on social media and drop us a message! Even better, sign up to our community emails today, become an Airhead, and stay up-to-date on everything we’re doing. You'll also receive a discount when we launch our mask. Minimal spamming, maximum fun.
By Natasha Das