Cars vs People in the USA – Air Quality

Last week was CleanAirDay. I love days like this when a collective effort is made to raise awareness of such an important problem in modern society. Most importantly the new generation of citizens is taught about the importance of excellent air quality and the dangers of air pollution.

For the past few weeks, I have been living in the US near Boston and I am still trying to wrap my head around those super monstrous vehicles people use to commute from one place to another and how towns are designed to force people to drive everywhere.

I am the only person that walks to work or to the grocery store. Literally, I don’t see other people walking here. It’s tremendous!

Every morning on my way to work I pass by a school district where a huge line of cars aligns in order to drop off their kids at school. Not only that, but when you look at the aerial photos of the school you will see numerous parking lots. It stinks too! I had to find a secondary road to walk in my effort to avoid breathing all of these notorious toxic pollutants.

Additionally, the parking area is as huge as the school. Vehicles occupy a lot of space and in most cases, only one or two people are inside. I don’t expect them to change their behavior but at least the authorities need to offer alternatives to those that care for a better world. Public transport is limited with 1 bus line every hour and at 18:00 is the last ride. On the weekend there is no commuter rail to Boston either so if a family wants to visit a museum or something they have to drive.

People are so surprised that I walk. My point is that although you can cover larger distances with a vehicle, at the same time you become more restrictive of your physical health as you end up sitting all day which is well-known as non-beneficial.

On my next walk to work, I will take with me a Particles Plus 8306 Handheld Particle Counter, which is a super accurate instrument and it can measure particles from 0.3 to 25μm, but I have to sacrifice part of my daily clean air. All for science!

Breathe Helmet – Angel Investor

Introduction

I have teamed up with a great product designer Nathan Hassanali in our effort to offer clean air to the commuters that need to move around the cities where combustion engine vehicles are unfortunately still a priority over sustainable alternative methods.

The Problem – Air Pollution

One of the biggest challenges of the 21st century will be to mitigate the negative effects of transport – greenhouse gases, air pollution, and noise – while ensuring positive aspects of mobility. Meanwhile what can dwellers do to protect themselves from the toxic air that is present in the streets all around the world?

Although air pollution has decreased over the last two decades, it is still a major problem in many areas. ‘EURO standards’ for vehicles have not succeeded in reducing Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) emissions and “defected” vehicles (aka Dieslegate) still circulate without meeting the levels set out in the legislation. Recently, the World Health Organization updated the Air Quality Guidelines (2021 AQGs) which sets the bar for human health high because according to new methods for evidence synthesis and guideline development they found proof of health effects occurring at lower levels than previously understood.

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Air Quality Monitors in transports – Why do we need at least CO2 monitoring?

After the fiasco with the exposure notifications on smartphones which was designed by Apple and Google to facilitate digital contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic, we realized that governments weren’t ready to accept the terms of the service for privacy reasons probably and also users weren’t keen on enabling such feature probably for the same reasons.

We have to be able to monitor the situation in indoor environments beyond the location of an individual and we already do that with air quality monitors. Indoor air quality monitors help us see the air we are exposed to and when something isn’t right like high CO2 concentrations, we get notified to act by opening the windows or turning on the ventilation system, or eventually leaving the room if none of the latter are an option.

I propose to bring that kind of awareness to the indoor environments of transports, especially, in long-distance buses, airplanes, and trains as we spend substation time inside these transports and we all share the same air.

Most vehicles allow drivers to choose between outdoor air or recycled air. They never ever mention the benefits of fresh air (but not clean) to the drivers, so in most cases, drivers never change the settings. Have you ever been in a car for a long time, having the recycled air turned on? The drivers always complain about the lack of focus or energy and many passengers fall asleep. In most cases, this is due to the lack of oxygen and the high CO2 concentration which is scientifically proved to affect and decrease cognitive function.

The same thing applies inside an airplane. However, the pilots get the most oxygen from the rest of the occupants in the plane, but still, I am not sure if the bus drivers know about the indoor air quality (IAQ) of their buses and the outdoor air or where is the recycled air switch.

Not only that, we know that CO2 is a great indicator of ventilation rates and consequently indicates the viral load inside a transport. A viral load is a numerical expression of the quantity of virus in a given volume of air. The higher the viral load the most likely is to catch the virus, any virus, or pathogen.

Air quality data like CO2/PM2.5 are not as privacy-sensitive as location information and they can help us in mitigating the spread of diseases and improving our cognitive abilities and health. Clean air means healthy lungs, heart, and brain.

Indoor air quality monitors are relatively inexpensive and CO2 sensors can operate for up to 15 years. They will also reveal the truth about the air we breathe in cities. I know that not many council members want people to know that the air they are exposed to daily is poor and unhealthy but if you are a good politician with real morals and compassion for your fellow dwellers then you want the best for them.

So maybe it is time to start designing indoor air quality monitors for transports. They can work offline or online depending on the transport. Passengers can access the information as their ticket can host a QR code with the link of the specific monitor/transport/route. In the case of an off-line monitor then a display with clear readings will allow passengers and the staff/cabin crew of the transport to adjust the indoor conditions.

Review: Aether Air HA30 an in-Vehicle Air Purifier

Commuting to work is proved to contribute the biggest daily exposure to air pollutants according to the University of California. Car filters are not very good at filtering out PM1, PM2.5, and PM10 particles from vehicle emissions as they were originally designed to catch large particles like dust and pollen. Gas filtration is non-existence even today in any vehicle, as a result, drivers and vehicle passengers breathe notorious toxic fumes.

Although I believe that if you live in a city and you work in the same city, you should find a better way to commute, for some people this is not an option. Consequently, they need to find a way to protect themselves and mitigate their exposure to air pollution.

Aether Air HA30 is an in-vehicle air purifier capable of filtering particulate matter and eliminating nitrogen dioxide (NO2) among other chemicals.

It uses the same technology as the HA500 domestic purifier but in a smaller package. The D-Orbital Nano Oxide (DNO) filter, which is an innovative filtration system invented by the founding CTO of Oxford Catalyst plc (a leader in novel industrial catalysts)” and a HEPA 13 filter.

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Walking vs Driving Kids to School

I feel that not enough has said regarding this topic even though many media try to cover the subject of air pollution like The Guardian, BBCVICE, Reuters, Science Focus, The Washington Post, The NY Times, etc do daily.

How important is to walk your kids and not to drive them to school?

Well, it is simple, it is very important for multiple reasons.

  1. Less Air Pollution
  2. Get to know your kids better
  3. Socialisation
  4. Less Stress & More Physical Activity
  5. Economics

Less Air Pollution

Just today while I am writing this article a new study came out explaining that children are five times more exposed to toxic air on school run than other times of the day. This is normal if you take into account all the cars that queue up with the engines on and idling while waiting to drop kids off or pick them up.

In simple words, your kid’s health is at high risk!

I used to walk to school every single day, under the sun, under the rain and under the snow and guess what, I didn’t melt. It actually helped me wake up and be ready when classes started. A rainy day is a fun day for a kid and umbrellas have been invented for a long time now.

Get to know your kids better

My school was not far away from my house, 10min approximately, my mother or my aunt accompanied me and my cousin during pre-school and for the first year of primary school. It was great, we had the chance to talk calmly and for them to wish us a good day without worrying about where to park the car or the traffic lights or getting late. Walking distances are always the same as nothing can block your way.

Socialisation

During the walk to school, you have the chance to get to know other parents and your kids’ friends, talk to them and exchange opinions. Kids learn and copy their parents. Imagine being inside a car and you – the parent – are frustrated because you stuck in traffic or because another car bumped your car, most probably you will swear. Do you want your kid to learn that word from you?

During the socialisation that happens between you and the other parents, you have the chance to discuss important school issues and most likely resolve them. Also, you have the chance to invite them for a play day. Trust me your kids will love you.

Less Stress & More Physical Activity

As I have already mentioned, walking is relaxing and apparently good for your health too as it is considered a physical activity. The rest of the day you will be in the office or wherever place you work in and you will have time to sit. Fun fact, on average, we burn about 50 calories for every 10 minutes of walking.

Economics

Obviously, there are economic reasons to choose walking or cycling over driving but I am not going to discuss them here as I am trying to focus your attention on how to become a better more sustainable person, not a richer one.

To sum up, avoiding driving your kids to school won’t only reduce air pollution in your neighborhood with a direct benefit to your family’s health but it will help you become a better parent and it will also help you raise a healthier and more socially capable kid.

EGYPT – Air Pollution

Recently, I travelled to Egypt and I had the pleasure to visit and see many fantastic and immense monuments like the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Abu Simbel temples and many others. A fantastic journey through ancient Egypt which literally transfers you to this great ancient civilization.

It rarely rains in Egypt and the temperature in summer can easily reach 48ºC/118ºF. That said, the Sahara desert plays an important role in the climate and air quality of the country. Particulate Matter is the main natural air pollutant and impossible to combat.

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Electric cars VS The World…

I recently came across an article in Science focus where they discuss “How environmentally friendly are electric cars?

They also have a chart on the article with the CO2 emission each technology Petrol, Hybrid, Electric and Hydrogen produces. I fundamentally believe that this chart can create wrong impressions to the average driver who lacks knowledge on how energy is produced and what emissions are.

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