Heatwaves are climatic phenomena with both natural and man-made causes, but the high temperatures they bring are not the only nuisance to worry about. 

Heat like never before 

To say that the heat waves we have experienced this summer are unprecedented would be a mere banality. Not only have we experienced extreme temperatures in the shade or been ravaged by a thermal mass that resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 people in Spain alone; it is as if the northern hemisphere has been engulfed by it. From North America, through Europe, Asia and parts of Africa, the most recent wave has been like the breath of a dragon for all of us. 

And that is not the bad news. Due to the effects of climate change, some scientists are warning of more and worse heat waves in the coming years. People like, for example, Enrique Sánchez Sánchez, professor at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, who has been more than clear in announcing that every summer we will get worse with heatwaves, painting a future scenario in which we will not only have more of these events, but they will grow in both temperature and duration. The summers of the future, it would seem, will be longer than three months

This is not new news. We have been warned about this for thirty years, and if we are in the situation we are in, it is partly thanks to bad policy decisions and industrial practices, not to mention the fossil fuels we burn every day in our vehicles, or the tons of emissions generated by rampant tourism. It is this mix of pollutants that interferes with the Earth’s climate systems, precipitating heat waves like the one we have experienced in 2022. But that is not the end of the problem, as the extreme heat generated by air pollution in turn generates more air pollution. It is a cycle that is becoming increasingly difficult to break. 

The chemistry behind pollution 

air purifiers

Many pollutants are generated by our social, industrial, and commercial activities. In previous articles, we have mentioned some of the most common ones, such as PM 2.5 particles and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which can be found in abundance not only in the streets and neighbourhoods but also inside our homes and offices. But there are also other equally dangerous agents that make air pollution a very difficult issue to solve because, like an onion, it is made up of many layers.  

One of them is ozone (O3). It is benign to our health when it is where it belongs – up there in the ozone layer that protects us from the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation and the charged particles that arrive from stellar explosions thousands of light years from Earth – but dangerous when we find it close to the regions where we live. This is what is known as tropospheric ozone, and the high temperatures caused by the most recent heatwave have triggered it. But what exactly is the problem?  For that, we need to understand a little about the process behind its production. 

When fossil fuels are burned for energy, we pay for it with the production of various nitrogen oxides (NOx), of which NO2 is the most famous of all. The latter is not produced directly by the burning of the fuels, but when the resulting nitrogen oxide (NO) is mixed with oxygen (O) in the atmosphere. This is bad enough, but it gets worse when high temperatures caused by solar radiation reheat the air in which this NO2 is found, along with other pollutants. This generates a cascade of chemical reactions that result in the production of tropospheric ozone

What are the consequences?  

According to data obtained by Ecologistas en Acción, a third of the 500 stations responsible for measuring this kind of ozone in Spain have exceeded the levels set by the regulations, which establish the limit at 120 µg(micrograms)/m3 of air, measured every eight hours, and are advised to be reached less than 25 times a year. These are measured every eight hours and are recommended to be reached less than 25 times per year. How bad is the situation? According to data compiled by the Ministry of Ecological Transition, it was in Madrid where this limit was exceeded 11 times, on Wednesday 13 July. Similarly, Catalonia, Extremadura, Castile-La Mancha and Andalusia accumulated concentrations beyond the established limit. 

As we have already mentioned, ozone is an important element to protect us from ultraviolet rays, as long as it is between 15 and 60 km above the surface. Below that, it becomes an oxidative agent that weakens the cells of all living things. Being in contact with high concentrations for short periods can cause fatigue, headaches, and reduced lung function. In the long term, we risk cognitive impairment and damage to the pulmonary system, as well as complications for asthma sufferers. Those suffering from diabetes, heart failure or obstructive lung disease may face a greater chance of premature death if subjected to high concentrations of this ozone. Whichever way you look at it, there is no kind way to deal with it. Put in numbers, according to the European Environment Agency, between 1,500 and 1,800 premature deaths per year are due to ozone pollution

Staying indoors is not the best solution 

We might think that one way to avoid contact with tropospheric ozone would be to stay indoors, but this is a half-hearted solution. Staying indoors in this heat leads us – those who have the possibility – to turn on the air conditioning, which in turn is a pollutant source, meaning that we would be contributing even more to the problem of polluted air. But that is not the real issue here, as staying behind closed doors does not protect us from other indoor pollutant sources, such as PM 2.5 particles, NO2, humidity, spores and fungi, etc. 

The truth is that ours is a difficult issue to resolve. Natural ventilation renews the air in our homes and offices, but it also brings in pollutants from outside, including ozone.  The current climate crisis, coupled with air pollution and high levels of ozone, form a cycle from which, now, it is very difficult to escape. Yes, we will find some protection if we stay behind closed doors, but only a little, because the air in our interiors is not entirely clean. 

This is how we help at AIR8 

A good air filter is one of the best lines of defence against indoor pollution. There is not much we can do at the moment to reduce the current rates of air pollution in our cities, but our indoor spaces can be clean and safe. At AIR8 we have produced ideal solutions to this problem.

We use medical-grade HEPA-13 technology, the kind you’ll find in the most demanding spaces, those where air purity is of paramount importance, such as clinics and hospitals. So we can guarantee that 99.97% of all pollutants in your home or office will be filtered out. From PM 2.5 particles and nitrogen dioxide, to viruses such as COVID-19, as well as pollen, fungi, spores and pathogens. Each of our filters has different filtering and pre-filtering stages, from UV-GI light to activated carbon, cold catalyst and ionised. 

When you choose us, you are choosing a product that meets all European quality standards. Each of our filters is CE marked as a guarantee of its efficiency and good manufacturing process. Everything seems to indicate that longer and more intense heat waves will be the new normal in the coming years, which will lead to a higher rate of air pollution. That doesn’t mean that our homes and offices should suffer as a result. At AIR8 we offer you everything you need to ensure a better quality of life.