Looking back on 2019

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As we say goodbye to 2019 and head into 2020, we thought we’d take a moment to look back at some of the big news over the last 12 months. What made the headlines in the world of air quality?

Air pollution like smoking a pack of cigarettes every day for 29 years

Scientists from the US believe air pollution is a major contributor to the rise in chronic lung disease over recent years. In fact, they claim it can increase the risk of developing emphysema in the same way that smoking a pack of cigarettes every day for 29 years can.

Indoor air quality is 3 times worse than outdoors

In a report from the UK, scientists describe our homes as ‘toxic boxes’. Modern houses are well insulated, but as we keep the cold weather out, we often keep pollutants trapped inside. As a result, the air inside our homes is up to 3 times more polluted than the air on the streets.

Air quality in the kitchen worse than the worlds most polluted cities

This year a team from Texas recreated a Thanksgiving meal, measuring indoor air quality all the way. With the burners running at full heat and the oven on for a solid five hours, pollution rose to dangerously high levels. If the inside of the house had been a city, safety warnings would’ve been issued.

Another air quality study underway

Exciting news this year, as we were selected to take part in another study. Working with the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, the East Boston Social Centers, AIRInc and Blue Cross Shield, a number of Austin Air HealthMates will be used to improve air quality near to the airport in East Boston.

Air Pollution linked to Dementia and Alzheimer’s

A team from London found that exposure to high levels of Nitrogen Dioxide and PM 2.5 significantly increases a person’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s. In another study from Ontario, people living close to major roads were also at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. This latest research further proves the point, air pollution is causing changes in our brains that affect our mental health in a variety of ways.

Air pollution linked to loss of vision

This year, scientists from Taiwan found that exposure to Nitrogen Dioxide increases our chances of developing age-related macular degeneration by 91%. Its the most common cause of visual impairment for people over 50 and although symptoms can be slowed down, there is no cure. More evidence to prove the far-reaching effects air pollution has on our health.

Air pollution causes depression and feelings of sadness

A team from the UK found that exposure to pollution causes inflammation in the brain. This particular type of inflammation disrupts the brains signaling patterns, leading to an increased feeling of anxiety and depression.

In another study, this time from China, air pollution was linked to feelings of sadness. The team found that on days when air pollution is bad, people generally tend to feel more melancholy.

And Swedish scientists discovered that children were more likely to use psychiatric medication when exposed to high levels of PM 2.5 and Nitrogen Dioxide. Again, research shows air pollution has a significant effect on our brain and our mental health.

The dangers of air pollution in the womb

There have been numerous studies published in the last 12 months highlighting the dangers of air pollution for our unborn children. We now know that pollutants can pass through the placenta, to reach babies in the womb. Increasing baby’s risk of low birthweight, heart defects, premature birth, being admitted to the ICU and perhaps most alarming, pollution increases the risk of still birth. Scientists also believe this type of exposure can affect a child’s development, lower their IQ and may contribute to the child obesity epidemic.

Air pollution ages our lungs by 2 years

A European study concludes that exposure to Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) speeds up the aging process of our lungs by as much as 2 years and increases our risk of developing COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). In fact, for people living in highly polluted areas, poor quality air poses more of a risk than exposure to second-hand smoke.

2019 was a big year

As you can see from this list, a number of studies have been published this year, all showing that air pollution really does affect every aspect of our health, from the time we are born right up until our senior years.

Now more than ever, it’s time for change. It is vital that we phase out ‘dirty fuels’ such as oil and coal. As we look to the future, it has to be one that is cleaner and greener. A future that uses the wind, the sun and sustainable biofuels to provide us with the energy we need. A future that is safe, clean and pollutant free.