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Introduction to air security

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The air we breathe in can be either a source of happiness and well-being or distress and illness. Through natural and man-made activities, the atmosphere is being polluted continuously and severely. Though we know the various sources of pollutants in the atmosphere, we have very little control over effectively preventing them. Therefore, it is paramount that we manage the situation to minimise exposure to these airborne pollutants. This calls for exploring methods and means for improving air security around us.

Impact of unhealthy air on human health

People living in developed and developing countries spend considerable time indoors. Therefore, indoor air quality must be safe and healthy. Since the beginning of the 1970s, it has been understood that air pollution can be detrimental to respiratory and cardiovascular health, leading to an increased risk of premature death from heart and lung diseases. However, the effect of air pollution on cognition and mental well-being has been less well understood until recently. Proof is mounting that contaminated air is also bad for your brain. Researchers have found that elevated levels of air pollution may impair children’s cognitive capacities, raise the chance of cognitive deterioration in adults and maybe even contribute to depression.

Impact of pollution on the economy

Air pollution brings its toll on the economy in many ways:
  • It costs human lives
  • It lowers people’s ability to work
  • It impacts vital products like food and water
  • It damages cultural and historical monuments
  • It reduces the capability of ecosystems to accomplish their functions
  • It costs money in remediation or restoration.
The annual cost of air pollution in China is evaluated to be $900 billion each year, with costs in the U.S. heading to $600 billion annually. Indian cities have scored unfavourably in air pollution indices for years, and the issue costs the country $150 billion annually on an average.

According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) (3), in 2015, WHO and OECD evaluated that the economic price of premature death and disability from air pollution in Europe is close to USD 1.6 trillion.

Protection from air pollutants

Air pollution, along with climate change, is one of the most significant environmental threats to human health and the world economy. WHO’s new guidelines recommend air quality standards for pollutants, where evidence has advanced the most on health effects from exposure. However, when action is taken on these so-called classical pollutants – particulate matter (PM), ozone (O₃), nitrogen dioxide (NO₂), sulfur dioxide (SO₂) and carbon monoxide (CO), it also has an impact on other damaging pollutants. Ensuring air security is crucial to having a healthy life. We must eliminate pollutants like suspended particulate matter, biological agents and harmful gases from our surroundings.

Air pollution concerns in companies

Corporates and industries employ hundreds of employees. Most of them have air-conditioned offices and work areas which have limited ventilation. Air quality inside industries is also hampered by pollution through industrial emissions that make their way into the work areas. This could gravely affect people working there. Unhealthy air accounts for severe health issues and poor performance, and frequent absenteeism from work which ultimately affects the productivity of the company.

Since the financial impact of pollution is significant, it is time for industries and offices to seriously consider the benefits of providing a safe indoor environment to their employees so that they don’t fall ill. A safe environment also reduces the leaves employees would take if they were otherwise exposed to a polluted environment. All this, in turn, would improve the employees’ productivity, making any investment in improving the indoor air environment palatable or possibly profitable for the businesses. Portable or central air cleaning systems can reduce
indoor air pollutants of either outdoor or indoor origin. Air purifiers are available for homes, offices and other indoor spaces like restaurants,
meeting rooms and conference halls. Based on the size of the room and the concentration of pollutants, air purifiers of adequate size must be chosen for effective performance. The price of air purifiers or air cleaners is very low compared to the financial and social damage the diseases related to air pollution can do to human beings. Ensuring a safe environment will also improve the employees’ psychological well-being, leading to improved productivity.

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