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Health

These Giant Towers Could Clean Toxic Smog in the World's Most Polluted Megacity


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Air pollution impacts the health of 90% of the population globally. It is critical that we take steps to reduce emissions at its source and envision creative solutions to clean up toxic smog that is already in the atmosphere. Join us in taking action on this issue here.

India has announced a plan to build giant filtration towers to address its air pollution problem, CNN reports.

The Smog Project, designed by Znera Space, a Dubai-based architecture firm, is seeking to address toxic smog in Delhi, India, one of the most polluted cities in the world. The towers work by filtering pollutants out of the air and turning them into renewable resources.

Delhi was ranked the most polluted among megacities with populations over 14 million in 2018, the Hindustan Times reports. During late 2014, the air in Delhi was so polluted that breathing it was equivalent to smoking 44 cigarettes a day, CNN reports.

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A combination of industrial waste, diesel vehicles, power plants, and crop burning in neighboring regions all contribute to poor air quality in the city.

Beyond Delhi, 14 Indian cities are among the top 20 most-polluted cities globally, according to the World Health Organization. Mumbai is also close to the top of the list as the fourth-most polluted megacity.

As the Smog Project comes online, pollution is expected to worsen as car ownership is predicted to increase by 775% by 2040, according to a 2016 International Energy Agency report.

Recently shortlisted for a World Architecture Festival 2018 award in the “Experimental Future Project” category, for "proposals that challenge conventional thinking," the Smog Project is taking an innovative approach to reducing air pollution.

Air flows into the towers and passes through five stages of filtration, including charcoal-activated carbon, negative ion generators, and electrostatically charged plasma to trap harmful particles. Air is then pushed upwards where it passes through a photo-catalyst filter, which sterilizes bacteria and viruses, before being released, CNN reports.

Each 328 feet-high air filtration pod is expected to produce 353 million cubic feet of clean air per day and serve an area of 100 hectares in the city, the designers told CNN. In addition to cleaning the air, the towers can turn recycled carbon into concrete and fertilizers.

Because the towers are powered by solar hydrogen cells, designers hope they will be self-sustaining.

While the Smog Project is notable for the scale of its infrastructure, it's not the only urban air filter in the works. The Smog Free Tower, by Dutch designer Daan Roosegarde, is capable of cleaning 25 million cubic feet of air per day. In Berlin, Green City Solutions is also experimenting with CityTree, a moss installation that claims to soak up as much pollution as 275 trees.

Although these efforts are being commended, some scientists have offered caution.

"Considering the limitations of the technology in terms of its area coverage to treat widespread air pollution in the Delhi city, this is not the only solution we must rely upon," Sumit Sharma, director of the Earth Sciences and Climate Change Division at The Energy and Resources Institute told CNN

"For long-term, wider-scale air-quality improvements, emission mitigation measures are required at the respective sources," he said.

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Air pollution is a problem that impacts the health of people around the world. Nine out of 10 people globally breathe polluted air, according to a study published in May. This is extremely concerning as toxic smog can trigger life-threatening health problems.

Every year, around 7 million people die from toxic air particles, which can harm the respiratory and cardiovascular systems causing strokes, heart disease, lung cancer, and infections, The World Health Organization (WHO) said in 2016. Ambient air pollution — produced by cars, trucks, and industry — accounted for more than 4 million deaths. Meanwhile, more than 3 million people died from indoor pollution in 2016, the Hindustan Times reports.

"Air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalized people bear the brunt of the burden," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, said in a statement.