Airlabs Wins the Innovative Technology Award, Sustainable City Awards London

Airlabs won the Innovative Technology award at this year’s prestigious Sustainable City Awards in London.  The awards, run by the London Sustainability Exchange and funded by the City of London Corporation, recognise companies that have achieved excellence in sustainable development.  

Airlabs’ work with the CleanAir Bench has been awarded the Innovative Technology award, for its application of new technology for smarter and more sustainable city life.

The bench was designed to reduce exposure to air pollution in hotspots, for example on Bird Street, directly off Oxford Street, a highly polluted high street.

It is the targeted application of air cleaning that makes Airlabs technology innovative and sustainable.  It is not the ambition to clean an entire city, but to clean the air that is most polluted where people are in cities.

The CleanAir Bench is a prototype of the work that Airlabs can do.  Airlabs will continue to roll out projects like this to continue the fight against air pollution in cities in the UK, Europe, and around the world.  

We thank the London Sustainability Exchange for this great honour and their recognition of the significant need to address the air quality issue in the world’s cities.

What can citizens do about air pollution?

source: https://phys.org/news/2016-11-indian-cities-delhi-air-pollution.html

With all the concerning news about air pollution and environmental degradation today, it is difficult to know what individuals can do to make a difference. Air pollution affects health world wide, has enormous economic costs, and is detrimental to the environment in many ways.  

Many people feel like they cannot personally have an effect, but that is not true! By joining initiatives, making lifestyle changes, and engaging with the community, people can prevent and reduce air pollution.

A different approach, complementary to the implementation of Airlabs technology, is taking preventative actions for air pollution. There are many different types of ways to reduce and prevent air pollution. Some of these include using public transportation and biking whenever possible instead of driving, helping developing areas acquire clean cooking and heating systems that do not burn coal and biomass, recycling and reusing whenever possible, and contacting leaders to make a change in your city. By making these small lifestyle changes, and inspiring others to do so as well, you can protect the health and quality of life of your community.

 

The Climate & Clean Air Coalition is working on many very impressive initiatives to bring together all sectors to make a change. They have 11 different initiative focuses which include diesel, waste, finance, health, agriculture, and household energy. Click here to see a full list of initiatives. For anyone that has a specific interest or skill set, this is a fantastic way to get involved to maximise your personal effect! CCAC also provides tools such as webinars and training if you are interested in improving your knowledge and skills.

The CCAC along with the World Health Organisation and UN Environment have worked together to create BreatheLife. BreatheLife is an impressive initiative with the goal to cut deaths caused by air pollution by 2030. They also provide many great resources as well as tips and ideas on how to make a difference. BreatheLife allows for many different sectors to get involved, such as individuals, health professionals, and leaders.

There are plenty of other non-profit organisations, such as Greenpeace, that have both local and international initiatives to get involved in. Through these groups you can surely find a method of action that works for your personal goals and capabilities!

If you wish to contact government officials directly and ask for change, there are many different website to make it easier! Here are some helpful resources for the UK and for the US.

Airlabs is taking action by developing and implementing technology which is a direct way to stop the effects of air pollution for humans and has the potential to make an enormous difference in people’s health. This technology can be used by both public and private sectors, NGOs, and citizen groups By placing this technology in city pollution hotspots, it can make cities more liveable and much healthy for people around the world!

blog post by Anna Moros

Air Quality as a Business Case Part 3: Effects of Pollution on Environment

This post is about the environmental impacts of air pollution and is part of a three-post series discussing the different effects of pollution on society.

Health, the economy, and the environment are extremely connected and therefore cannot be looked at on their own.  Particulate matter (PM), NOx, and ozone, along with other pollutants, all play a large role in ecosystems and the environment. This post will focus on three major sectors of the environment that air pollution affects: plants and agriculture, biodiversity and ecosystems, and climate change.

 

Plants and agriculture

Particulate matter has serious ramifications for plants because it blocks the sunlight. This is disastrous on plant life because they rely on the sun for energy. PM coats the exterior of the plants blocking more sunlight and other nutrients the plants need, making them less efficient and likely to survive. PM also causes draught so the plants receive less water, also necessary for their survival.

Drought is caused by PM because when water molecules condense in clouds, they do so onto existing particles in the air. However, when there is so much particulate matter in the air, not enough water condenses on each particle so the droplets are not heavy enough to fall. This has disastrous effects on plant life because they need water to survive. These factors affect all life on earth because without healthy flora, many animals cannot eat, which throws of the balance of the ecosystem. This of course affects humans as well because agriculture does not produce as much.

Agriculture is largely impacted from air pollution as well contributes to it. Fertilisers used in crops play the biggest roles because they produce ammonia emissions that react to produce NOx, SO2, and PM. As climate change continues, extreme weather will make crops even more difficult to manage. This will require more fertiliser, resulting in various forms of pollutants. These pollutants then block the sunlight, which the crops need to produce energy, and the pollutants stick to the plants blocking sunlight and nutrients. While it is very detrimental to humans to have smaller crop yields, this phenomenon also occurs in all plants, on and off farms.

This means that plants in the wild are not as healthy as they should be.

 

Biodiversity and ecosystems

Dangerous air quality also results in a loss of biodiversity because it harms the ability to for plants and animals to function and grow. Biodiversity is the variety of plant and animal species in the world. Acid rain from SO2 as well as ozone, NOx, and PM have numerous effect as discussed above. Ecosystems are so complex that human tinkering can create many unanticipated problems. By wiping out entire species and limiting diversity, the ecosystem may be damaged.

Biodiversity is extremely important in and of itself, meaning that it is significant just because it exists and it has taken a massive amount of years to become what it is. Along with this, biodiversity can be very valuable to humans because it provides potential sources of food, medicine, ecosystem services, and economic possibilities. Ecosystems services are resources that humans benefit from and need to survive, such as clean air and nutrient cycles for crops. These resources would be nearly impossible and way too expensive for humans to create on their own, and therefore rely on nature to do it for them. By tinkering with ecosystems and biodiversity, humans are limiting their own quality of life.

 

Climate change

Greenhouse gases (GHG) have shown to largely affect the Earth’s climate by trapping heat in the atmosphere, otherwise known as the greenhouse effect. These GHGs include CO2, water vapor, N2O, and ozone, among others. Studies have found that ground ozone pollution increases as temperatures do, meaning that the effects of ozone pollution will only increase as climate change continues. Similarly, extreme weather has shown to lead to higher amounts of PM found in the air. Therefore, as climate change continues, so do the negative impacts of air pollution on all sectors of society.

Climate change also largely changes lives in cities. Due to warming of the atmosphere, sea levels continue to rise, potentially to dangerous heights. Many cities are in danger of flooding in the next few decades if serious mitigation efforts do not occur. Extreme heat resulting from climate change might also make certain difficult to live in. Reducing air pollution in cities can help mitigate these problems and create a positive impact on health, the economy, and the environment. This can be done through Airlabs technology as well as by getting involved in initiatives to mitigate these issues.

 

Read the other two parts in this series about the effects of pollution on the health and economy!

 

Sources

http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTUWM/Resources/340232-1205330656272/4768406-1291309208465/PartII.pdf

http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/global_warming/climate-change-and-ozone-pollution.pdf

http://www.unece.org/environmental-policy/conventions/envlrtapwelcome/cross-sectoral-linkages/air-pollution-ecosystems-and-biodiversity.html

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nitrogen-pollution-likely-increase-climate-change/

 

blog post by Anna Moros

Air Quality as a Business Case Part 2: Effects of Pollution on Economy

This post is about the economic impacts of air pollution and is part of a three-post series discussing the different effects of pollution on society.  In many ways, the economic effects are very connected to the health ones, and, as will be explained in the third part of the series, these impacts are very connected to the environmental effects of pollution.

Due to air pollution related causes, more than $5 trillion is lost in welfare expenses around the world. This includes health care costs, effects on consumption, quality of life, production output and innovation, agriculture, and tourism, among many others.1 This major expense is comparable to an expense costing the GDP of Japan in 2016, the third largest GDP in the world!2

The affects of air pollution on the world’s economy and society can be broken down into three major categories: economy of health, economy of production and economy of culture.

 

Economy of Health

Due to the dangerous effects of air pollution on human health, millions of people each year die prematurely or are too sick to work, resulting in a weaker and smaller work force, costing society billions of dollars. In 2012 the World Health Organisation reported that about 7 million people died from air pollution, or one in eight deaths. The World Bank estimates that the costs of these deaths in 2013 were about $225 billion in foregone labor income every year; this number has grown from $163 billion in 13 years, an unbelievable and terrifying growth rate.

The $225 billion accounts for the premature deaths and sick days taken because of air pollution.  Air pollution has disastrous effects on the economy in China specifically; in 2013, China lost 10% of its GDP to air pollution effects, nearly the entire GDP of Mexico.1

 

Economy of Production

Among the extreme effects of premature death and heart attacks, air pollution can also affect people’s IQ and output. Research has shown that air pollution affects the fetus and can result in slightly lower IQ, “enough to hamper school performance and perhaps lifelong learning”.3 This can have huge economic consequences from the loss of innovation and productivity.

Agriculture also experiences large impact from air pollution. Crops both contribute and are affected by air pollution. Fertilisers used in many crops produces ammonia emissions that react to produce NOx, SO2, and PM2.5. These pollutants then stick to plant exteriors and block sunlight, decreasing crop yields. The World Bank and Chinese Environmental Authority estimated a cost of $4.4 billion a year in China alone due to acid rain and air pollution.4

 5

 

Economy of Culture

Cities with dangerous levels of air pollution also suffer in business because they cannot compete with cleaner cities. Senior executives and other educated people are not as willing to move to these extremely polluted cities and risk their health and lifestyle choices. About 48% of business in China said it was hard to keep or recruit employees to work for them in China.6 Therefore, the businesses suffer because they cannot retain the best employees and HR costs are higher due to the struggle to find and hire employees.

Similarly, tourism is impacted by pollution because tourists fear the health ramifications and low visibility. In 2013, Beijing saw a 15% decrease in tourism resulting in massive costs to the economy.7 Visitors often choose a different location if they think the poor air quality will affect their health or their visit. For areas that rely on high tourism, this can be a large hit on their local economies.

Unfortunately, low-income people are often the hardest hit by air pollution and its effects. It is common for the poor to live or work in highly polluted areas such as factories, and do not have the resources to avoid or protect themselves from this dangerous pollution.  Often, if they have respiratory issues or other health problems, they do not have the health resources to prevent or help these concerns. The cooking stoves that rely on burning wood or coal in developing countries also harm and kill many people, especially women and children due to the black carbon that is emitted in these processes.

 8

 

To summarise, air pollution has destructive consequences on health resulting in premature deaths and more sick days, but it does not stop there. It also affects agriculture by decreasing crop yields, makes business less competitive, and hurts tourism, therefore costing the economy trillions of dollars.

By limiting exposure to air pollutants, society can benefit in so many ways. Placing Airlabs technology in air pollution hotspots, such as outdoor cafes and sidewalks, can reduce the harm of such pollution on peoples’ lives. This allows for less detriments to health and therefore smaller costs on the economy, culture, and society.

Health, economy, and the environment are extremely connected, and one cannot be looked at in a vacuum. Consequently, when making major decisions that regard society, all three categories should be considered. This, in essence, is being sustainable. By taking into consideration the health of humans and the environment while still being profitable, all of society can prosper.

 

Read the other two parts in this series about the effects of pollution on the health and the environment!

 

blog post by Anna Moros

 

Sources

https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/25013/108141.pdf?sequence=4&isAllowed=y

2 http://databank.worldbank.org/data/download/GDP.pdf

3 https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/urban-air-pollutants-can-damage-iqs-before-babys-first-breath/

4 https://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTEAPREGTOPENVIRONMENT/Resources/China_Cost_of_Pollution.pdf

http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/agriculture/impacts/pollution/

https://www.chinabusinessreview.com/air-pollution-impedes-executive-hiring-in-china/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/Air-pollution-blamed-as-China-loses-tourists/

https://thenanfang.com/fewer-tourists-coming-to-china-pollution-cited-as-a-major-concern/ 

 

 

Air Quality as a Business Case Part 1: Effects of Pollution on Health

source

This post is about the health impacts of air pollution and is part of a three-post series discussing the different effects of pollution on society.  Pollution can have drastic effects on the health of humans. The World Health Organisation reports that in 2012, approximately 7 million people died, “one in eight of total global deaths” (WHO). This puts air pollution in the number one spot for the largest environmental health risk.

Both indoor and outdoor air pollution have huge effects on humans. People in cities suffer most from outdoor air pollution due to industry and fossil fuel combustion in vehicles. NOx is formed from the nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere when it is exposed to intense heat from either combustion or lightning. NOx is a catalyst for the formation of additional pollution, such as ozone and particulate matter. While NOx is harmful on its own, its role in creating more ozone and particulate matter make it especially hazardous. This cycle makes vehicle congested areas so dangerous for human health.

Indoor air pollution is a significant concern for buildings located near pollution hotspots in cities.  The high level of emissions can easily find their way into buildings through open windows or doors, as well as the HVAC system, if the system is not properly filtered.  This can be a occupational health concern for those working in a shop, reception desk, or office with open windows or doors in a pollution hotspot area.

Indoor air pollution also has a serious impact on the health of people in developing countries that do not have clean methods of cooking. Due to the poor combustion of coal or wood, fine particles (PM2.5) are produced. These particles are so small that they can penetrate the lungs and cause many health issues, such as heart attacks and chronic respiratory disease, along with other illnesses. Targeting indoor cooking practices and launching sustainable initiatives that reduce these pollutants could save millions of lives.

The map below, from this article, visualises the concentration of particulate matter around the world.

NO2 is another dangerous form of pollution. It is usually formed in combustion, but can be formed naturally from lightning. NO2 also plays a large roll in smog and is very prevalent in cities around the world. Breathing in high levels of NO2 can result in problems such as more intense asthma, coughing, bronchitis, among other issues in all humans including the elderly, fetuses, children, and adults.

The elderly and the young are most susceptible to air pollution damage, even trace amount of pollutants and metals found in the blood can result in sizeable damage. However, air pollution impacts everyone, with varying degrees of susceptibility. Research has shown that fetuses are particularly vulnerable to air pollution, resulting in slightly lower IQs and as well as risk to premature birth, low birthweight, and, in some cases, autism and asthma. Fetuses living in highly polluted air affect them long after they are born.

Many children also spend plenty of time outdoors, often in playgrounds, breathing in the polluted air. This can lead to major health concerns that affect them for the rest of their lives. Certain cities have taken measures that stops children from playing outside when air pollution is particularly bad. Adults who spend hours in their car every day driving through traffic or spend time in pollution hotspots are also at high risk for cardiac and respiratory issues associated with air pollution.

Over half of the people in the world live in cities, and 88% of these cities are above the threshold for safe air quality, as set by World Health Organisation. For example, London exceeded the annual limits just five days into 2017. As more people move into cities, the effects of air pollution on humans are only going to increase. While the facts about pollution are very concerning, there are many things that can be done to limit exposure and health risks.

One way to alleviate the dangers of air pollution is from stopping it at its sources. An initiative that is working on the reduction of air pollution is Breathe Life. This is a collaborative campaign between the World Health Organisation, Climate & Clean Air Coalition, and UN Environment that “aims to mobilise cities and individuals” to improve air pollution. The initiative is doing this by connecting cities, increasing monitoring, accelerating solutions, and empowering individuals around the globe to meet World Health Organisation targets by 2030. For example, by improving domestic heating and cooking in developing areas, black carbon and both indoor and outdoor air pollution can greatly be improved and countless lives can be saved. While these are good solutions, they take time an input from citizens and government to implement.

Airlabs technology can remove the dangerous pollutants in hotspots across cities, limiting human exposure here and now. This dynamic initiative can be supported by the public and private sector thus is a significant opportunity for reducing air pollution exposure in cities. Hotspots are the areas that have the worst pollution due to low ventilation, high pollution emission, and plenty of humans. Examples of hotspots are sidewalks, train stations, and outdoor cafes, among others. Airlabs is the most direct, immediate way to protect humans from dangerous pollutants in outdoor open spaces. This technology also puts the control into the hands of consumers, companies, and local authorities and does not rely on legislation. In this way Airlabs technology is very flexible and is incredibly small, effective, and efficient.

 

Read the other two parts in this series about the effects of pollution on the economy and the environment!

 

If you are interested in learning more about the health impacts of air pollution, here is some further reading:

 

Sources

http://ccacoalition.org/en/initiatives/health

http://breathelife2030.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/9789241565080_eng.pdf

http://ccacoalition.org/en/news/new-study-quantifies-global-health-environmental-impacts-excess-nitrogen-oxide-emissions-diesel

http://ccacoalition.org/en/initiatives/household-energy

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/air-pollution/en/

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.5b03709?journalCode=esthag

http://www.futurity.org/air-pollution-premature-births-1150022/

 

blog post by Anna Moros

Pollution Fighting Bus Shelters: Airlabs x JCDecaux x The Body Shop

Airlabs, together with JCDecaux and The Body Shop, launched London’s first pollution fighting bus shelter campaign.

To bring this clean air solution to the streets, we collaborated with JCDecaux and The Body Shop, who are both leaders in innovation and sustainability, in their own fields. 

JCDecaux is the world leader in out of home outdoor advertising.  If you live in a city or have travelled to a city, chances are you’ve seen their bus shelters or billboards.  They maintain a serious focus on environmental sustainability – read about their environmental priorities here

The Body Shop, a global cosmetics brand, prides themselves on creating products that enrich rather than exploit the environment and health of customers – read more about their commitment here.

The collaborative campaign came together to provide clean air to Londoners and raise awareness around the social and environmental dangers of air pollution, as part of The Body Shop’s Anti-Pollution Revolution campaign.

The result was the installation of Airlabs air cleaning units inside of JCDecaux billboards in 3 central London bus shelters.

The campaign provided clean air in key air pollution hotspots, near Oxford street, a London location that regularly exceeds the threshold for safe air quality.  Curious about the current pollution level on Oxford Street right now?  Check it out here.

This successful collaboration was the start of a great movement, providing clean air in polluted urban spaces.  Airlabs looks forward to expanding upon this campaign in the future, implementing our technology in cities around the world and reducing pollution exposure for people.

Pollution Pods

Airlabs technology is cleaning the air in a sensory and perspective giving art installation.

British artist, Michael Pinsky, has designed Pollution Pods, a series of inter connected domes, each simulating a different pollution cocktail from cities around the world: Beijing, New Dehli, London, Sao Paulo, and Trondheim, Norway.

An Airlabs air cleaner is running in the Trondheim dome to not only simulate the fresh air of Norway, but to ensure that it is actually clean from harmful pollutants.  The other domes have been filled with simulations of the pollution mixtures found in the respective cities.

Going from the feeling of breathing particle pollution from Beijing winter, the most polluted time of the year, to breathing nitrogen dioxide in London in the summer, is something you can only experience in Pollution Pods.

Photo: Thor Nielsen / NTNU

The installation is part of STARMUS, a festival celebrating arts and sciences, with world renowned astrophysicist, Professor Stephen Hawking, on its board. Professor Hawking has stated that air pollution is one of the top 3 threats to our global society.

Pollution Pods is commissioned as the capstone project for Climart, a research project combining psychology, natural sciences and art to understand the impact of visual art on perceptions of climate change.

The installation is open until 7 July and can be found at Festningsparken, Kristiansten Festning, 7015 Trondheim, Norway (map here).

Air Pollution Hotspots

blog post by: Anna Moros

Air pollution Hotspots are created by three main factors:

  1. low ventilation
  2. a high density of people or long dwell time
  3. high emission of pollution

These three factors often combine on city side-walks, where there is low ventilation due to city buildings and street canyons, masses of cars and buses pass regularly, and crowds of people walking throughout the day.

This buildup of pollution has a drastic effect on humans as they are areas that humans tend to dwell and spend plenty of time in, for example waiting for a bus or eating at an outdoor café. These are the areas where maximum air cleaning is needed because high concentrations of pollutants can be very dangerous to humans.

Airlabs technology cannot filter the whole atmosphere, but for a real effect on human health, it does not need to.

When placed in these hotspots, this technology is very efficient and tackles the pollution which does the most harm to humans. This technology can take the form of street furniture or bus stops, among other forms.

Airlabs technology can filter out the three most prominent forms of urban air pollution: NOx, particulate matter, and ozone. Learn more about the pollutants.

The EU mandated threshold for daily exposure to fine particles (PM2.5) is 25 µg/m3. NO2 is limited to a yearly average of 40 µg/m3. London surpassed its annual limits just 5 days into 2017!

3 Key Urban Air Pollutants

blog post by: Anna Moros

Airlabs technology filters the air of the three major pollutants:

  1. Nitrous Oxides
  2. Particulate Matter
  3. Ozone

Airlabs technology filters the air of the three major pollutants: ozone, particulate matter, and nitrous oxides. These species are listed as ‘criteria pollutants’ by the World Health Organisation. The criteria pollutants are generated from a myriad of human activities including industry, transport, and building emissions, and effect humans in every aspect of their daily lives. Airlabs technology is different from others because it is small, effective, and efficient. There is less air flow resistance, so less energy is needed than common air filters. Our technology can be tailored to treat specific the ‘pollution cocktails’ made of varying amounts of the key pollutants found in different urban areas.

Nitrous Oxides (NOx)

NOx includes NO and NO2 and is formed from the nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere when air is exposed to intense heat. This heat can be generated by lightning or combustion, making cities packed with vehicles extremely prone to this form of pollution.

NOx is particularly dangerous because it is a catalyst for the formation of additional pollution, including ozone and particulate matter.

Particulate Matter (PM)

Particulate matter is a solid or liquid state pollutant that comes in varying sizes. These sizes are represented as PM10, PM2.5, and PM0.1, ranging from coarse to ultra-fine particles, depending on their diameter. See the diagram below to understand the scale.

The composition and size of PM is highly variable and there are multiple primary sources. PM can enter the air through direct release from different sources such as fires or transport. PM can also be the result of reactions in the atmosphere, from NOx for example.

Ozone (O3)

Ozone in the stratosphere, an atmospheric layer many kilometers away from earth, absorbs ultraviolet light from the sun, protecting life on Earth from this damaging radiation. In contrast, ozone in the troposphere is very dangerous. Simply put, ozone breaks many molecules into dangerous substances, such as acids and ketones. This also happens in the human body when ozone from the air enters it, leading to upsetting health concerns such as cancer. Ozone plays a large role in the NOx formation seen above.

 

Airlabs Project Engineer, Carl Meusinger, Awarded Talent Prize from the Innovation Fund

Carl Meusinger, Airlabs Project Engineer, has just been awarded a highly prestigious prize in the Danish Research community: The Innovation Fund’s ‘The Year’s Talent Award 2017’.

The prize highlights and honours a group of pioneers who have created valuable solutions for society. The winners are all examples of what curiosity, innovation and hard work can accomplish.

Carl was awarded the prize based on his work developing a new solution for the cleaning of industrial air pollution. The solution is both cheaper to install and operate than traditional systems. His innovation can help to reduce the number of people who die every year prematurely from health effects associated to air pollution.

Airlabs solutions are developed and optimized with the knowledge and dedication Carl displays, which has also earned him this prize. Carl is a strong asset to the Airlabs team and we are proud to celebrate this significant accomplishment.