It is a known fact that air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, causes skin issues such as wrinkles and premature aging. Like secondhand smoke, particulate pollution causes many health issues as well, both short-term and long-term. According to US News & World Report, “short-term adverse effects from particulates include diminished lung function, coughing, wheezing, cardiac arrhythmias, and heart attacks. Long-term exposure can also worsen asthma, slow normal lung growth, damage lung airways, and increase the risk of dying from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.”

Since 1955, the United States government has recognized the need for legislation to clean up air pollution. Subsequent revisions to the initial legislation strengthened the laws regarding allowable amounts of car emissions, factory smog, and other sources of air pollution.

The most recent version, The Clean Air Act of 1990, tackled five areas: air-quality standards, motor vehicle emissions and alternative fuels, toxic air pollutants, acid rain, and stratospheric ozone depletion.

But now, in 2018, it isn’t just legislation and governments fighting air pollution. Private inventors, corporations, and other organizations are harnessing the technology that can aid in cleaning our air all over the world, along with recognizing that some advances in technology are creating more air pollution.

With the increased focus on wellness in the workplace, in addition to knowledge of how environmental toxicants such as those found in indoor air affect the skin and health, it’s important for aestheticians, health coaches, and other wellness practitioners to be aware of this connection. Today, we’ll look at some of the causes of air pollution, as well as some solutions to help you make informed decisions to improve air quality in your home, workplace, and the environment.

Technology is causing air pollution

While it’s true that technology is being used to clean up air pollution, it’s also been the primary cause.

No technological wonder has caused more air pollution than the horseless carriage. Nearly half of Americans—150 million—live in cities that fail to meet federally designated air quality standards. Cars, vans, trucks, and heavy-duty vehicles (think dump trucks and backhoes) are the primary sources of such pollution, which includes the release of excess ozone, particulate matter, and other smog-forming emissions.

Industrial pollution is another primary source of air pollution. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air pollution levels from 1990 to 2008 increased 14 percent. This trend mirrors the number of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions in the air. Air pollution has serious effects on the health of the planet and its population.

Factories pollute the air mostly through fossil fuel emissions. Fossil fuel emissions include methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide. While these are naturally-occurring substances, the extremely high levels of emissions are the main concern. Industrial methods also emit manmade emissions of fluorine-containing gases like hydrofluorocarbons.

Aerosols are another significant source of air pollution There are many countries, starting with the United States, which are making significant progress in cutting down on air pollution that is directly related to aerosols.

How technology has helped decrease air pollution

The environmental effects of air pollution mean the destruction of oxygen producing plants and damage to long-term forest viability, deterioration of nutrients in the soil, toxicants making their way into the food chain, killing and damage of aquatic life in streams, rivers, and lakes, and nitrogen overload in coastal estuaries leading to oxygen depletion and harm to fish and other aquatic animals.

Solar energy has been an alternative source of electricity for decades, though it is not widely used. Sunlight that reaches Earth’s surface provides, “…10,000 times more energy than we consume, and solar power aims to harness this force.” Solar technologies use sunlight captured through solar cells to provide electricity for heating, cooling, and even running small electronics like a calculator.

Researchers have determined that if we covered only 0.1 percent of the Earth’s surface with efficient solar cells, we could replace all other forms of energy. University researchers around the world are trying to develop advanced solar arrays using nanotechnology. Their hope is to harness the sun as our primary form of energy.

Sales of hybrid cars like Toyota’s Prius, doubled in January 2006 compared to the year before, with nearly 16,000 cars sold. Hybrids are built with smaller gasoline engines, electric motors, and rechargeable batteries. They deliver outstanding gas mileage and create far less air pollution than traditional vehicles.

Clean technologies are being introduced and old tech is being improved. Though catalysts, scrubbers, and low-VOC paints and coatings were not used in 1970, they have been proven to be effective and are widely deployed today across industries.

Other examples include:

  • Sophisticated new valve seals and leak detection equipment, including cameras that can see leaks, for refineries and chemical plants
  • Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC)-free air conditioners, refrigerators, aerosol sprays and cleaning solvents
  • Non-petroleum-based formulations

Finally, we can look to a technology that is already up and running: Biodiesel. This fuel alternative comes from any vegetable oil—including recycled vegetable oil from restaurants—and can power most diesel-engine vehicles without modification.

What YOU can do to clean up air pollution

As wellness practitioners and advocates, we can help by utilizing and encouraging companies to use the clean air technologies available to them. If you are a business owner or make, take a look at what purchasing decisions you either make or have the ability to influence. Invest in alternative energy options like wind, solar, and hybrid vehicles. Such investments would not only help in reducing pollution of all kinds, but ultimately, these investments will pay for themselves and save money for Americans in the long-term.

If you can’t convince your landlord to choose low VOC paint, add solar panels to the roof, or invest in more efficient filtration, maybe you can convince them to carry products made by small, independent artisans rather than from companies who mass produce their products in huge facilities that contribute to the problem. Look for products that are free of petrochemicals and industrial grade solvents, surfactants, and synthetic fragrances. Switch to airless pump bottles rather than aerosol spray bottles. Maybe you can convince them to replace the toxic cleaning products in the janitor’s closet with non-toxic ones. Maybe you can add more plants into your reception area and treatment room to help clear the air, and switch to an essential oil diffuser over candles.

If you’re a health coach or other wellness practitioner, perhaps offer more virtual coaching services to eliminate the need for both you and your clients to take a car to get to your sessions. Hire support staff who work virtually from home.

Personally, switch to a hybrid or biodiesel vehicle, look for carpooling opportunities, take public transportation, ride a bicycle, or walk to your destinations when possible.

It may seem like making changes on a small level doesn’t make an impact on the big picture of the issue, but it does. When individuals, communities, and small businesses make positive changes themselves, and vote with their dollars, the good news spreads.

Leave a comment about aromatherapy in the spa!What are some things you’ve done to reduce air pollution in your home, workplace, or the environment?

Please share in the comments below!



Additional references, reprinted with permission:

Air Pollution: One of the Greatest Causes of Skin Problems

Industrial Air Pollution Clean-Up Is On Its Way In 2018

Image credit: Mika Stetsovski