Sophie Power: air pollution on our collective health

Air Pollution

90% of the world breathe in polluted air. There are six times more people dying from air pollution than malaria, and four times more than HIV/AIDS, and yet air pollution isn’t listed on anyone’s death certificate.  Things are about to change. A petition reached over 100,000 signatures, after nine year old South Londoner, Ella Kissi-Debrah died in 2013 from ‘acute respiratory failure’. Experts believe it was due to illegally high levels of air pollution and a new inquest is being made.

London is one of the most polluted cities in the world, and the contaminated air we breathe both outside and inside, takes an average of 16 months off our lives. London based Airlabs is one of the leading pioneers in clean air technology. Its most recent innovation is the airbubbl in-car air cleaner. A crucial piece of kit, as sitting for an hour in traffic is the equivalent of passively smoking 180 cigarettes.

Sophie Power, Co-Founder Airlabs

Sophie Power, Co-Founder of Airlabs joined us at Second Home this week as part of Fast Forward 2030. We spoke to her about the affect air pollution has on our collective health, and whether reducing it can directly increase happiness.

“As all new mums do, I tried to research how you can have the best impact on your unborn baby’s health. I realised that the air pollution in London was having a huge effect. I wanted to get some technology to protect my son, and the technology didn’t exist, so I co-founded Airlabs”, says Power.

Particles and gasses make up the two types of air pollution. They both hit the respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems and “asthmatics in particular take a huge hit on their lungs”. With the devastating consequences to our health, Power does believe that air pollution is directly linked to happiness, even if people don’t know it. She describes it as “feeling less well towards the end of the day”.

Stella McCartney Store, London

“I would rather Airlabs didn’t exist, as we shouldn’t be cleaning air pollution in the first place.” Education and raising awareness of this issue is of key importance to Power, and having the media report on it spreads the word. Stella McCartney asked Airlabs to reduce the contaminated air in her flagship London store. Airlabs built a filter directly into the ventilation system. More recently, they have partnered with BNP Paribas to introduce clean air zones at Marylebone station. 

Power believes people can significantly reduce their exposure and their contribution to air pollution by:

  • Taking back streets rather than main ones.

  • Walking, as the air is healthier outside than being inside a car.

  • Not using cars for small journeys.

  • Making sure car engines are off when idle.

  • Not burning food whilst cooking, if so properly ventilating the area.

  • Using less cleaning products that can build up inside small spaces.

  • Bringing in that fresh air, when it is cleaner outside.

Find out more about Airlabs here.

Fast Forward 2030 is a network of entrepreneurs who believe that in order to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), entrepreneurs need to incorporate them into their business models. They host discussions and debate around these topics throughout the year at Second Home. Our full line up of events can be found here.