There has been a lot of talk in the press recently about President Obama’s plan to cut the emissions from our nation’s coal-fired power plants in order to dramatically reduce our air pollution. The technology to retrofit these power plants is very costly, and it may cause a large number of them to just shut down. However, there is a new technology that is being tried in unique ways by a variety of scientists and engineers around the world that holds great promise for reducing air pollution. And you may be part of the solution too.
Air pollution is a major global problem. The World Health Organization says it is the largest global environmental killer causing over 7 million deaths in 2012 alone (more than cigarettes). It is now causing respiratory and other problems among children and the elderly, causing emergency hospitalizations to spike when air pollution is high. The most heavily impacted cities are in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific, but smog and air pollution impact people here in the US too.
The new environmental solution uses nanotechnology to create a coating that neutralizes air pollution. The coating is made up of titanium dioxide, which when in the presence of light causes a chemical reaction that breaks down air pollutants. So basically, it acts like the catalytic converter in your car, which scrubs harmful car exhaust emissions. The difference is that people are now mixing this coating into building materials, roads, paints, clothing, laundry detergent and who knows what’s next.
Adding titanium dioxide nano-particles to building materials is not that expensive, but it the effects are limited to that location. The coating has been used on large banners, and a 20-meter banner can remove about 20 cars’ worth of pollution each day. But the air pollution problem is much larger than that, so we will need mass participation to really make an impact. That’s where the idea of adding the coating to clothing or detergent comes in. If we could all participate, the impact would grow exponentially. Imagine us all being like little catalytic converters, purifying the air as we go along, just by moving about and walking around. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
Most big ideas start small, and big changes require people to get involved. If everyone just made a small contribution, we could have a huge impact toward a global problem. Stay informed and get involved. Our planet needs your help.