Despite rising pollution levels, more and more people are moving to cities. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 55% of the world's population lives in urban areas and this number is projected to increase to 68% by 2050. In addition, the WHO estimates that 91% of people living in urban areas breathe polluted air. There are many benefits to clean air that often go unnoticed. Clean air helps improve our physical health by decreasing the amount of pollutants we breathe in. It also helps improve our mental health by providing us with a sense of peace and well-being.
Additionally, clean air is essential to the environment and is necessary for the existence of plants and our furry friends, as studies have shown. Research conducted in the US revealed that cats that lived in homes where indoor air pollutants such as household chemicals, second-hand smoke and cooking fumes were prevalent experienced higher rates of lung cancer, feline asthma, and chronic bronchitis. To keep our planet healthy, it is important to take measures to improve the quality of the air we breathe.
Less air pollution, less climate change
Carbon dioxide is the main contributor to global warming and climate change, but it doesn’t act alone. It’s accompanied by several other gaseous and particulate compounds, referred to as ‘climate forcers’, which add to the amount of heat (solar energy) that the earth absorbs. One such example would be methane, a potent climate forcer and air pollutant with ties to agricultural activities such as livestock production and the consumption of meat. Another prime example is particulate matter, a pollutant we’ve often discussed in our Cambridge Mask blogs, and a major antagonist to the climate and the planet’s air quality.
Climate change in turn is directly linked to:
- Extreme Heat
- Extreme Precipitation
Particulate matter, depending on its composition, can either have a cooling or warming effect on both the local and global climate. For instance, black carbon is caused by the incomplete combustion of fuels, drawing solar and infrared radiation into the atmosphere, resulting in a warming effect. Black carbon, ozone precursors, and methane are also known as short-lived climate forcers, and practices to diminish their emissions can benefit human health and that of the climate.
The process of implementation has been one of trial and error. In the past, measures meant to benefit climate change ended in unintended consequences for air quality. For instance, the use of diesel vehicles was punted until it was realised that these vehicles were emitting high levels of air pollutants. In another similar scenario, the touting of renewable wood burning in certain areas of Europe led to large volumes of particulate matter in the air surrounding those areas. We need to learn from these mistakes to make sure that our future climate-saving endeavours are properly understood before being implemented. We need to find long-term sustainable fixes for climate change if we’re going to improve our air quality.
Following a course of action from local to global
Air pollution is universal, but its effects vary across the globe as various pollutants get released into the atmosphere through a variety of sources. Power plants, industry, agriculture, road transport, and households – are the most prominent emitters of air pollutants. Upon being released into the atmosphere, these pollutants mutate and spread, which means that policy makers face a multifaceted problem, and thus there are no singular or simple solutions.
Due to the varying sources from which these pollutants emerge – economic activity and geographical locations – the type of action required must occur at different levels, going from local to international. By way of international conventions, like the DIHAD summit that the heads of Cambridge Mask Co recently attended, the reduction of pollutants in the atmosphere can be achieved. However, without local action in the form of awareness campaigns, the removal of highly polluting vehicles from cities, or urban zoning changes, reaping the benefits of good environmental endeavours will fall short of the glory. The diversity of the problem of climate change also means that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the global problem that is air pollution.
The benefits of cleaner air
It’s everyone’s right to breathe cleaner air. Humankind has been aware of the need for clean air as far back as Hippocrates in 400 BC. Today, more than ever, we’re aware of the ramifications of air pollution. Very recently the WHO released its new Air Quality Guidelines and with it the sad reality that 99% of the world breathes polluted air. The benefits of breathing clean air transcend things like lung protection and allergic reactions to include a slew of other health benefits. Here are some of the benefits that clean air affords us:
- Better heart health: Numerous studies have shown that there is a link between long-term exposure to particulate air pollution and cardiovascular disease. While it’s impossible to eliminate the risk of exposure due to outdoor air, you can regulate your indoor air by regular cleaning, mask wearing, humidifiers, and even by keeping certain types of plants indoors.
- Clean air anti-ageing benefits: Chemical factors play a significant role in modern ageing, affecting the skin by way of toxins in the air. Cleaner air helps skin retain its elasticity and thus slows the wrinkling process while also helping to inhibit chemically induced complexion problems. If you reside in a dry climate, then the use of a humidifier for purified air is sure to assist with the moisture content of your skin.
- Improved exercise outcomes: If you’re exercising at home, where you can regulate your air intake using a Cambridge Mask PRO or a humidifier, you can be the recipient of improved exercise outcomes. Cyclists are known to take advantage of our Cambridge Masks, especially in urban environments where the level of air pollution is particularly high. Due to the nature of exercise, which requires more oxygen, exposure to toxins is likely to occur, hence the need for cleaner air.
- A decreased risk of diabetes: As is the case with heart disease, not many people would think that poor air quality could play a role in contracting diabetes. However, research has revealed that one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes is higher due to gaseous and particulate air pollution.
- Better brain health: Like every part of the body, the brain is dependent on oxygen to function. Thus, the quality of the air we breathe is sure to affect our cognitive abilities. Studies have revealed that cognitive decline can result from long-term exposure to particulate air pollution.
As the world continues to ingest air that is riddled with various pollutants, the most important question that abounds is, what can be done right now? For one thing, you can use the right kind of face mask, and one that can serve you in multiple ways. The Cambridge Mask PRO for instance can be used during physical activities like cycling, while you’re commuting, if you’re in a crowded space, and if you simply want to give your lungs air that is of a much higher quality. Our masks have also proven their utility to people with allergies, respiratory issues, and in cases where wildfires have peppered the skies with smoke. Tested and certified to filter 99% of what you breathe, Cambridge Mask Co offers the immediate solution to your pollution.
"Very easy to get a good fit ... very comfortable ... feeling of extra security is definitely worth it." - R. Lambert
Down the line though, if we’re going to affect real change, then we must engage our leaders at both local and provincial levels and insist upon legislation that can be enacted for real change. We must place a greater focus on clean energy in the forms of solar power, wind power and ocean wave power. Governments must also incentivise businesses to choose cleaner means of production and innovation, and there must be tax incentives so that these steps can happen faster. Lastly, but not finally, cleaner means of energy and the various sustainable practices required to conquer climate change and air pollution must become affordable and thus widespread. We have a long way to go, but as they say, “slow and steady wins the race.”
Disclaimer: Cambridge Mask is not a medical website. For any medical questions or advice, please consult a doctor or professional medical advisor.