COVID 19 & Wildfires: Why We Need to Shout Louder this Clean Air Day

Clean Air Day is always important. But this year, as we battle a respiratory-linked global pandemic, this annual air pollution awareness day has taken on a whole new level of importance.

1) Air Pollution is Still the Biggest Environmental Health Threat We Face

91% of the world’s population live in areas where air pollution exceeds the guidelines considered safe by the World Health Organization. Further, 4.2 million deaths each year are attributed to ambient air pollution.

The American Lung Association’s 2020 State of the Air report highlighted things aren’t exactly improving for the US, meanwhile Southeast Asia’s haze continues to impact the health of millions.

2) Lockdowns Highlight Air Quality Possibilities

Our busiest cities became quieter than they had for a generation, leading thousands to remark upon the improvements in air quality. Many hope this increased air quality awareness will help lead to permanent behavior change and further action.

In a survey conducted by the Global Action Plan, they found that:

  • The majority of people (62%) wanted the government and local authorities to invest in plans to tackle air pollution and traffic more urgently then before the outbreak of coronavirus.
  • 85% wanted business to do something to improve air quality after the lockdown.
  •  64% want to see more people cycling and walking when the lockdown eases.

3) As Wildfires Get Bigger, So Does the Health Threat

During a wildfire,  PM2.5 poses the greatest risk to our health, especially for vulnerable groups such as heart and respiratory disease sufferers.

Larger wildfires and their devastating smoke impact represent a disturbing trend set to continue as a result of our changing climate – not just in the US.  We’ve written more about this here.

4) COVID-19 + Poor Air Quality Makes things More Dangerous

The combined threats of Coronavirus and air pollution and pollen risk putting certain vulnerable groups at increased risk.

Battling a respiratory-linked virus pandemic on the world stage means hospitals and emergency departments are stretched and ventilators are in short supply.

In this article, Stephanie Christenson, MD, assistant professor of pulmonology at UC San Francisco explains that it’s normal for their hospitals to see more people coming in for respiratory issues during wildfire season.

The worry now is that wildfire smoke could both increase severity of COVID-19, and further burden healthcare systems.

5) Winter is Coming & Our Houses might be more Polluted than the Outdoors

Due to COVID-19 restrictions and the transition to colder weather, many of us are likely to be inside more over the next weeks and months.

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 continues, more and more attention is turning 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 has highlighted the importance of healthy indoor environments, and we’re predicting a world of change for IAQ regulation and innovation over the next months and years.

 6. We CAN Protect Ourselves from Air Pollution this world clean air day

No-one is immune from the health impacts of air pollution exposure. But, we’re also not powerless when it comes to managing our exposure.

In the same way as wearing a mask, regular hand-washing and social distancing can reduce COVID-19 infection risk, so too can we implement positive behavior changes to avoid unhealthy air:

  • Check the air quality in real-time – plan exercise when the air is clean.
  • Open windows when the air outside is clean.
  • Shut your windows when the air quality is poor.
  • Consider a connected indoor air purifier or HVAC system – one that connects indoor & outdoor intelligence.

If you’re a respiratory disease or seasonal allergy sufferer, consider a connected health solution – like Propeller Health, Klarify.Me or My mhealth – one that connects environmental conditions to your symptoms.

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Ran Korber
Ran Korber

CEO & Co-founder at @BreezoMeter. My burning ambition is to improve the health and quality of life for billions of people across the globe by providing accurate and actionable air quality data. As co-founder and CEO at BreezoMeter, I'm proud to be able to work towards bringing my dream to fruition each day.