Towards Airpocalypse?

Air pollution is the contamination of the environment with particulates like dust, pollen, toxic chemicals and gases like carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, which modify the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. The presence of the harmful substances can cause several health problems like allergies, respiratory diseases and shortening of lifespan. For the first time ever, a global health study has declared air pollution to be among the top 10 stroke risks. The amount of air pollution has risen dangerously high in several developing nations, particularly India and China. A recent study has shown that air pollution has reduced the lifespan of people in the northern parts of India by 3.2 years.

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Kids on a street in New Delhi using makeshift masks to take precaution from air pollution (Photo by Sanjeev Verma  via Getty Images)

The usage of masks to prevent breathing polluted air has become so prevalent in China that masks have become high fashion and fashion designer Masha Ma has included them in her Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 201 collection.

Vogmask Faceslap Hong Kong Fashion Week 2014
Image source : Jingdaily

The fight to combat air pollution is a long and arduous one. Architects are trying to solve this problem by designing buildings with materials that absorb particulate matter in the air. Italian architecture firm, Nemesi & Partners, have already designed the Palazzo Italia in Milan with smog absorbing cement develop by Italcementi.

Several projects have cropped up on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, that are trying to combat indoor air-pollution. Of particular note is the Clairy natural air purifier which “combines the power of nature and technology with the beauty of design to analyse and eliminate indoor pollution” (source: Clairy Kickstarter page). Numerous apps have also been developed which help users be aware of the Air Quality Index in their outdoor areas, and devices measuring indoor air quality. (BreezoMeter, Awair, Cube SensorsPlume).

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Clairy Natural Air Purifier (Image source : Kickstarter)

Even though steps are being taken to reduce air pollution on these small scales, the rampant increase in consumerism calls for rapid manufacture of products which are a major source of air pollution along with vehicular emissions. The Toyota Corolla, one of the best selling cars in the world, releases between 204-30 grams per mile of carbon-dioxide in the air, not to mention the large amounts of toxins released by factories during its production. Its quite ironic that even the manufacturing of air purifiers themselves causes air pollution.

While some developing nations are already at the tipping point of an airpocalypse, are we all headed for total destruction? Or will we, as a species, work together to use design, technology, policy-making and whatever other tools we have at our disposal, to clean our air and make one of the most fundamental things for our survival, breathable again?

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