Can Technology Advancements Help to Tackle the Growing Issue of City Centre Pollution?


There is now a more urgent need for governments and cities around the world to clean up their air pollution levels. With more cities now than ever seeing year on year increases, the issue of air pollution is being identified as a public health crisis, with a staggering 4.6 million deaths each year being attributed to the effects of air pollution.

With new technology advancements on the horizon, many countries are working to tackle this issue, paying particular attention to city centres and urban areas. Whilst the role of these new technological advancements has been widely accepted by governments around the world, there are some very select technologies which are expected to play a huge role in the future of monitoring and maintaining air pollution.

Can face masks really protect us from air pollution?

For those living in smog-filled cities, such as Beijing and Mumbai, anti-pollution masks are common, especially for those who spend the majority of their day in the city. In Beijing, smog levels have been reported as being “off the charts”, far exceeding the maximum mark of 500. According to the World Air Quality Index project, pollution levels which exceed 300 are marked as being hazardous to health and contribute to serious health issues and illnesses.

Respirators are one of the biggest up and coming solutions in an attempt to combat air pollution in city centres and the best masks that are available on the market can filter out almost 100% of particle matter, including PM2.5, which is known for being the most dangerous pollution particle. PM2.5 is thinner than a single strand of hair and passed through the lungs and into the bloodstream. Although many companies claim that their masks have the capability of being able to filter out harmful pollutants, the evidence which backs up these claims comes solely from lab-based conditions. It has been debated, however, that there is no proof that wearing these masks can protect from the effects of air pollution, nor make any difference to the symptoms of asthma.

Urban air purification

Increasing levels of air pollution in urban environments is becoming an increasing worry for those who live in city centres. With so many cities across the globe recently recording higher than ever levels of pollution, this is having an impact on the health of the public. With this, there is now a huge rush within the technology industry with companies looking to create something which can both clean and filter the air in urban environments.

One of the most recent developments saw a Dutch design company create a “Smog Free Tower”, which works by absorbing the pollution, cleaning the air and expelling the fresh, purified air. The pollution which is absorbed by the tower is turned into pieces of jewellery, which are then sold as a way to fund the towers. The first of these “Smog Free Towers” has been built in Rotterdam, with the company claiming that each tower has the ability to clean around 3.5 million cubic metres of clean and purified air.

The threat of air pollution is both indoors and outdoors

There have been many studies carried which look into the impact that pollution has had over the decades. This research has been largely focused on the quality of outdoor air, as governments are responsible for the execution of pollution policies. There is very little awareness as to the impact which indoor air pollution, and the pollution inside our homes, is having on our health and, rather than being a safe place, there can actually be 5 times more pollution in the air within our homes. Each year, there are 3.8 million deaths which are attributed to household pollution, such as dirty stoves and fuels.

In recent years, there has been a huge increase in technology advancement for air pollution solutions within the home. One technology which has seen a huge advancement for the home is air purifiers. These handy machines can capture very small particles, such as household carbon fumes and pollen, but it has been debated whether these technologies can actually improve the quality of health.
In industrial work environments, the air quality is often extremely poor, thus impacting the wellbeing and health of employees and workers. In many indoor working environments, the air is often polluted with dust, carpet fibres and fungal spores, which can create an unhealthy working environment. Depending on the type of workplace, opening the windows is likely to cause more harm, so there have been recent developments into the types of air filtration systems available for these environments. Buildings can look at installing industrial ducting and ventilation as well as using advanced HEPA and carbon purifiers which can protect workers against harmful pollutants.