CLEAN INDOOR AIR QUALITY: A HUMAN RIGHT

Clean indoor air quality is a human right. Today humanity spends more time indoors than ever before. At Air Support Project, our mission as a social startup is to tackle this overlooked issue.

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LOOKING AT CLEAN INDOOR AIR QUALITY AS A HUMAN RIGHT

Today, humanity spends more time indoors than ever before. Despite this, the impact of indoor air quality (IAQ) on our health and well-being often falls under the radar. At Air Support Project, our mission as a social startup is to tackle this overlooked issue. We firmly believe that access to healthy indoor air is not a luxury but a basic human right. We aim to mainstream clean IAQ technologies, reaching those corners untouched by commercial markets.

As universally recognized standards, human rights apply to all individuals, ensuring fundamental freedoms and needs. Every state ought to recognize and protect these rights. We see healthy IAQ as one such right demanding acknowledgment and protection. Achieving healthy IAQ is no simple task. It requires the collective efforts of individuals and communities, empowered with the knowledge to make informed choices and advocate for better IAQ standards.

While our core solution revolves around providing affordable, efficient portable air cleaners, we understand that one-size-fits-all is not the case here. The need for clean indoor air is universal, but the strategies to achieve it should align with diverse regional challenges. Therefore, we strive to adapt our solutions based on specific regional needs, emphasizing the principle that clean indoor air is a fundamental human right.

Global Indoor air pollution deaths 2019
Image 1: Global deaths caused by indoor air pollution in 2019. Credit | Our World in Data

IAQ the impact and opportunity

Air pollution is generally viewed as an outdoor problem, but indoor spaces often host air that’s estimated to be 2-5 times more polluted. When exposed we breathe in tiny particles that can penetrate our lungs, enter the bloodstream, and affect any organ in our body. These particles have short-term and long-term consequences; ranging from mood changes, cognitive dysfunction, and sick-building syndrome to COPD, cancer, and death. Factors contributing to poor household pollution include a building’s location, resident activities, pets, building materials, and more. One major contributor to indoor air pollution is the use of unsafe cooking technologies (gas, wood, coal, or charcoal), affecting an estimated 2.4 billion people worldwide. These practices lead to severe health consequences, including respiratory diseases and even death. For instance, gas stoves in the United States have been linked to childhood asthma, with 12.7% of cases attributed to poor IAQ from gas stoves.

Improving IAQ can result in improved health, productivity, and overall well-being. In schools, it’s been observed to increase test scores, reduce sick days, and decrease respiratory ailments like asthma. On a broader scale, replacing traditional, unsafe stoves with improved ones can lead to environmental benefits by limiting the use of combustible fuels and reducing deforestation. Furthermore, it yields economic benefits by reducing time and money spent on fuel, freeing up resources for education or income-generating activities specifically for women and girls.

air quality standards and recommendations

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) have recognized IAQ as a crucial health issue. The WHO has consistently published air quality guidelines, providing vital information for governments, organizations, and individuals to manage air pollution. On the other hand, the UN has incorporated IAQ within its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being), SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).

To make clean indoor air a human right, governments play a pivotal role. While market forces can contribute to the “widespread adoption” of air purifiers and similar technologies, they often fall short in reaching the needs of the poor or vulnerable. However, when the government steps in, it can ensure that no one is left behind, just like when the UN General Assembly recognized the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right in 2010.

Image 2: Clean indoor air is a human right. Our mission is to helping people clean indoor air by supplying low-cost, effective air filtration products.

"Generally change in our society is incremental. Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time."

accelerating an iaq paradigm shift for all

It is evident that the time has come to address the critical issue of indoor air quality. While we have regulations in place to ensure the safety of our food and water, we have yet to establish comprehensive regulations for the air we breathe within our indoor spaces. This discrepancy is alarming, considering the significant amount of time we spend indoors and the potential health risks associated with poor air quality.

Fortunately, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment in history, where awareness and understanding of the importance of IAQ are growing rapidly. With the advancements in technology, the availability of data, and the collective efforts of researchers, policymakers, and concerned individuals, we are accelerating a paradigm shift in our approach to IAQ.

It is imperative that we advocate for the development and implementation of rigorous IAQ regulations. This includes setting standards for ventilation systems, limiting the use of harmful chemicals in building materials and furnishings, and promoting regular air quality assessments in public spaces, workplaces, and homes. By doing so, we can ensure that everyone has the right to breathe clean and healthy air in their daily environments.

Picture of Sarah Masih, MD, MBA

Sarah Masih, MD, MBA

I am an innovative communication freelancer with a passion for social impact startups. My background in fundraising and experience in leading high-impact projects is a driving force to ASP’s momentum.

This content is published under a creative commons — attribution/no derivatives license.

KNOW BETTER, BREATHE BETTER.

“I must fight with all my strength so that the little positive things that my health allows me to do might be pointed toward helping the revolution. The only real reason for living.”

FRIDA KAHLO

PREPARING FOR WILDFIRE SMOKE

Your first line of defense against wildfire smoke is staying in the know. Reliable sources such as local news, weather apps, or dedicated websites offer real-time updates on wildfires and air quality indexes. This critical information allows you to plan your activities and adjust your daily routines when smoke reaches hazardous levels.

Want to understand the Air Quality Index better? Check out our blog post with downloadable PDFs and charts.