Air quality awareness is growing, but many are still oblivious to the long-lasting consequences of air pollution exposure in early life. As this year’s Clean Air Day 2021 focuses on children, let’s explore the air quality impact in early life and examine how both businesses and individuals can take action against unhealthy air.
Poor Air Quality Impacts Us In the Womb
Researchers even found a correlation between maternal exposure to air pollution and increased susceptibility for Autism Spectrum Disorder in the third trimester of prenatal development. We wrote about this more in our interview with neuroscience researcher Dr. Friedman Hagit.
Prenatal exposure to ambient air pollution has also been suggested to contribute to higher obesity rates in the US, especially in the first six months of life. Researchers believe this occurs because pollutants cause systemic inflammation of organs, which impacts the metabolic process.
Toxic Air & Young Lungs = Lethal
Children are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of pollution as their lungs are still developing:
- A 5-year study in South London showed children were the most severely affected group by air pollution: 1 week of raised pollution levels triggered a 7.5% increase in doctor visits for children with asthma and respiratory infections.
- In 2020, air pollution was determined as a cause of death for the first time in history in the case of 9-year old Ella Kissi-Debrah. Ella suffered from severe asthma attacks that resulted in nearly 30 hospitalizations. Research later revealed regular exposure to NO2 pollution from heavy traffic was connected to her premature death.
- Stanford researchers recently linked early exposure to pollution with an increased risk of adult heart disease, concluding that pollution exposure at a young age can alter genes that regulate the immune system and increase blood pressure.
- A multi-decade UK study recently reported higher rates of mental illness symptoms in young adults who’d been exposed to higher traffic-related pollutant levels during childhood and adolescence.
We CAN Take Control of the Air We Breathe
Everyone can adopt positive behavior change to protect themselves and loved ones from unhealthy air: It all starts with delivering actionable insights at the personal level and encouraging individuals to understand they’re not powerless:
- Planning exercise when the air is clean.
- Opening windows when the air quality is good.
- Closing windows when the air quality is poor.
- Utilizing indoor air purifiers or HVAC systems – which connect indoor & outdoor environmental intelligence.
- Choosing cleaner routes for the school commute.
Businesses: How to Protect Your Customers
We believe businesses and organizations have an important role to play in empowering users to protect themselves from unhealthy air. Here are just some examples of the use cases we’ve seen from our partners:
- Indoor Air Products make air pollution visible and provide value both beyond their appliances and outside the home.
- Digital health innovators use air quality insights to boost patient engagement, conduct research, improve telehealth, disease self-management, and boost treatment adherence.
- Smart Mobility companies deploy environmental data to help people dodge air pollution.
- Weather & Lifestyle Apps that empower users with hyper-local and real-time air quality insights.
It’s TIME to Take Control of the Air We Breathe
1. Air Quality Awareness is on the Rise
Covid-19 sparked a major shift in public consciousness regarding air quality. Citizens and consumers are now demanding better protection from pollution, and businesses and governments need to adapt. We wrote about this more here.
Growth of ‘Air Quality’ Related News Articles Published Over the Years
Our analysis of Google “In the News” article results within these time frames
2. As Wildfires Get Worse, So Does the Health Threat
The combination of dry weather, millions of dying trees, and climate change are increasing wildfire activity across the US and in California especially. State officials warn that 2021 fire season could be “Armageddon”.
During a wildfire, PM2.5 pollution exposure poses a high risk, especially for vulnerable groups such as heart and respiratory disease sufferers.
3. We’re Waking Up to Indoor Air Pollution exposure
Prior to COVID-19, the EPA already stated that concentrations of some pollutants at any given time could be up to 2 to 5 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations. However, by and large, indoor air quality wasn’t regulated.
As the pandemic continued, more and more attention turned to integrated indoor air management systems and ventilation technologies focused on preventing the spread of COVID-19 indoors and indoor air contamination in general.
COVID-19 helped highlight the importance of healthy indoor environments, and we’re predicting a world of change for IAQ regulation and innovation over the next few years.