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Air Purifiers and the Ethics of Profiting off Pollution

I was watching a video at the end of the day, when it was interrupted with an advertisement. It was for Blueair, a business that sells portable air purifiers. I wasn't concerned with it until I was informed that "HEPASilent technology catches particles down to 0.1 microns in size such as viruses, bacteria and microplastics, while also removing larger particles such dust, pollen, smoke and pet dander." To think a nifty metal cylinder could remove pollution from a room was astounding to me, and I immediately thought of those who couldn't afford a $140-$2500 portable air purifier, the innumerable who must bear the brunt of the environmental burden and breathe the poisoned air.

As carbon emissions continue to rise, it makes sense that we search for new and innovative ways to combat the smog imposing on our communities. The most direct, yet complicated, solution would be to reconstruct our economic means of production to use less resources and emit less pollutants. Yet, the environmental crisis runs deep in our beliefs, and it is difficult for a society, let alone a world, to agree on the proper way to improve our planet's health. So we turn to technology, the brainchild of humanity, to dig us out of the hole we put ourselves.

I believe the most unfortunate aspect of climate change is that of the disproportionate burden. The communities most impacted by the effects of a rising climate are of lower socio-economic standing, often sacrificing their own wellbeing for the comfort of someone more privileged. An analysis published by the EPA in Science Advances, showed that ethnic minorities in America were more likely to be exposed to pollutants in the atmosphere. The system in which our society is constructed is racially biased, and thus ethnic minorities tend to live in lower income and polluted communities. Along with a myriad of social injustices, this also means that people of color bear the more environmental burden.

Is it ethical for companies to profit from something that so many are perishing from? Is it ethical to offer an out for some to an issue that affects us all as humans on Earth?

It's impossible to change people's mind; they must want to change it themselves. If someone values technological advancement over spiritual reflection, then I can't stop them from creating an air purifier for anyone who has the same values and can afford it. The only thing I can do is point out the double standards of this world, which this article barely scratches the surface of. Although technology is one way to combat the climate crisis, it's benefits are, for the most part, pigeon-held to the upper class of society. There needs to be diverse solutions which tackle the various and complicated issues for everyone.

Written by Alexia Tiches


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