Clean air should not be a luxury and a lot more people should be able to afford it, Thomas Talhelm, assistant professor of behavioural science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, said on Monday.
“Don’t fall prey to the idea that if you spend more money, you will get to breathe cleaner air. There are few simple and effective options that don’t require too much money,” he said, speaking at the University of Chicago Center in Delhi.
Talhelm, who has spent several years researching in Beijing, said that “awareness” on air pollution has been the catalysis for change in China. “The biggest thing holding peope back is lack of awareness about air pollution. It’s only in the last 10 years that people in China are freaking out about how the air affects their children,” he said. “Delhi has a serious pollution problem now and it’s a common misconception that it is fine during the summers. But I just tested the air outside and it is equivalent to 60 mg of PM 2.5 (the acceptable level is 25 mg).”
He also pointed out that general particulate matter comes into Beijing from surrounding areas pretty evenly, but in Delhi it really does matter where the sample is taken since the source of pollution is very heterogenous. For instance, he talked about people burning leaves or rubbish in a street corner.
It was not until Beijing’s ‘Airpocalypse’ in January 2013 that Talhelm began to “really understand and think about air pollution,” he told The Indian Express. “Air purifiers are not complicated but people want you to believe that they are,” he said. Soon after, he began his experiments to build his own ‘DIY air purifier’ with a fan borrowed from a friend and a filter purchased online for Rs 1,100, and strung both together with a tape measure.
The company he started, ‘SmartAir’, has since sold over 30,000 DIY air purifiers within China, and has shipped to India and Mongolia.