One of the largest risks to public health is poor air quality. In fact, the health impacts of air pollution have been the catalyst for a major improvement in air quality in the UK, even prior to the pandemic.
Understanding the air pollutants that are present and the effects of short and long-term exposure can help to further drive the importance of delivering clean, healthy air. We take a look at this in more detail, and what can be done to tackle poor air quality.
The presence of air pollutants
Air pollution is a complex combination of particles and gases, which can be both natural and of human origin. The two major components of urban air pollution in particular are particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide.
The main sources of particulate matter include the combustion of fuels, tyre and brake wear, fires involving burning vegetation and sea spray particles. Nitrogen dioxide is also produced by combustion processes. Some of the largest sources include diesel emissions from vehicles, power generation and domestic heating.
The presence of these air pollutants are known to have a negative impact on public health, with long term exposure leading to a variety of illnesses. If something isn’t done to tackle air pollution, it could lead to huge consequences for future generations. That is why we set about to develop our Growth Drivers, more of which can be found in our sustainable solutions section of the site.
The importance of air quality in a post-Covid world
The impact of the pandemic has had far-reaching consequences in many aspects of our lives, particularly when it comes to ventilation and clean air. There are now urgent calls for buildings to have improved ventilation, in order to reduce the risk of transmission.
Moving forward it’s clear that more emphasis will be placed on how buildings can ventilate and circulate air, with the idea of getting fresh air from outside and removing used air inside the building.
Effects of air pollutants on human health
Air pollutants generally have a negative effect on the eyes, nose and throat, lungs and respiratory system and the heart. This can cause serious illnesses include respiratory conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. There is emerging evidence that air pollution may also contribute to dementia, low birth weight and Type 2 diabetes.
In terms of hard hitting facts, Public Health England has estimated that long-term exposure to man-made air pollution has an annual effect equivalent to 28,000-36,000 deaths in the UK.
Whilst we rightly try to address the sources of pollution, the construction and built environments sectors have a responsibility to discover new products and systems that can mitigate and adapt to the effects of air pollution, in order to create a healthier and happier world. Developing ventilation and heating systems that can help to produce cleaner air is key in promoting positive health benefits in the long term.
Improving the UK’s air quality
In October 2020, data revealed that 75% of reporting zones across the UK still had illegal levels of air pollution. However, it has also been revealed that even a small reduction in fine particulate air pollution in England could prevent thousands of cases of coronary heart disease, strokes, asthma and lung cancers over an 18-year period.
Reducing fine particulate air pollution can be achieved by switching to greener alternatives for heat and ventilation, reducing harmful exposure inside buildings. Installing systems that provide an efficient filtration system can remove up to 75% of harmful particulate matter, instead delivering cleaner, filtered air into both commercial and domestic buildings.
With that in mind, improving air quality is vital in reducing health impacts, helping people to live longer and healthier lives. Everyone has a role to play, and there are now increasingly accessible solutions that can provide filtration systems for homes, offices and schools. Nuaire, part of the Genuit Group, have been leading the way in this area for decades.
From building design to road traffic management, it’s important that we now begin to design healthier environments within urban areas, creating more greener spaces for us now and for future generations.
To find out more about how Genuit is making this a reality, get in touch.
Statistics taken from the following sources: