The Chinese ‘Aircopalypse’ and the Business Solution

Air pollution has reportedly led to 1.2 million deaths in China in one year.

Related to the alarming rise in indoor air pollution in the world’s fastest growing economy is an increase in rates of asthma; one report claims it has gone up by 40 percent over the last five years (Atlantic Magazine, 2013).

China’s economic miracle has improved the standard of living for millions. This is one of the good news stories of recent years. Indeed, the McKinsey Global Institute predicts that 440 growing or new cities across the world (many of which are in China) will be contributing to as much as half of global GDP between 2010 and 2025 (MGI). However, air pollution has created serious environmental and human health problems in China that also need to be contended with. This is not a problem specific to China.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that two million people die every year from small particulate matter in the air. Other health problems are coming to light. For instance, a recent study in Bloomberg Business Week showed a correlation between higher levels of particulate air pollution and higher numbers of babies born with low birth weights.

Cleaner indoor air is clearly a human right; but it also offers practical benefits. For example, a study by William Fisk from the Californian Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concluded that better indoor air quality boosted worker productivity by 0.5 percent to 5 percent, leading to estimated savings of between $20 billion to $200 billion per year in the U.S.

Material health is a key component of the Cradle to Cradle® philosophy, followed by Desso since 2008. Ensuring that the materials are as free as possible of potentially risky toxins is critical for human health and the environment. It ensures safe use during the life of the product and enables the materials to be recycled in a healthy way later. The link between Cradle to Cradle®’s Material Health and Desso’s innovation drive for functional, added value products led to the search for carpets that would improve the indoor environment – contributing to the ‘Great Indoors’.

One such innovation, linked to the air quality issue, is the DESSO AirMaster® carpet, designed to capture particulate matter in its fibres. In fact, it has been proved to be eight times better than hard floors are keeping the fine dust out of air around us and four times better than regular carpets. (Based on tests performed by GUI, with DESSO AirMaster® versus standard PVC hardfloor and versus standard structured loop pile carpet.)