Every scientist should memorize this clever quote, which has been variously attributed to historical figures ranging from Albert Einstein to Yogi Berra: “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” It is the interplay between theory and practice which powers discoveries and shapes innovation. Without theory, there would be no starting point to scientific exploration. Without practice, great ideas and insights would never be applied to real-world situations. As a student of the aerobiome, I value the importance of both aspects of this knowledge dialectic. That is one reason my research has taken me beyond the laboratory into homes, schools, offices and public spaces, where serious air quality issues cry out for solutions. It is why I founded Hamza Mbareche Consulting, my entrepreneurial vehicle for helping people and communities identify, contain and mitigate airborne risks. The needs are vast, and the costs are immense. The federal government has estimated that 15,300 Canadians die prematurely each year as a result of airborne pollutants. The government also believes the cost of air pollution in Canada is $120 billion. There has been a steady stream of research in recent years that suggests this figure is far higher. Worldwide, the effects of air pollution are even more dramatic. Myriad studies have linked trace amounts of airborne pollutants to a range of chronic medical issues, including dementia, lung cancer among non-smokers, heart disease, respiratory disease, pneumonia, diabetes and COPD. For example, in a major study published in Current Opinion in Psychology, a research team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded: “Air pollution harms cognitive functioning across all life stages, from prenatal development, to childhood, to young adulthood, and even into old age. … Research has shown that people living in places with excessive amounts of PM2.5 — a microscopic pollutant commonly caused by burning from power plants, car exhaust, and wildfires — have a heightened risk for dementia by 92%.” In most cases, atmospheric hazards are as invisible as air itself. Unseen chemicals, microbes, spores, and a variety of carcinogenic substances can be carried by currents from outdoors or generated from synthetic substances indoors. Many of the riskiest particles are odorless, leaving no clue to the magnitude of the danger. By the time symptoms appear — headaches, diminished cognitive performance, respiratory issues — significant damage may have been done. Dangerous particles transport bacteria, viruses, fungi and include also substances such as asbestos. Particles can linger for extensive periods in the air, and can become widely dispersed. They are often found in surprising places, especially indoors. As a bioaerosols researcher I have studied these risks intensely. As founder of Hamza Mbareche Consulting, I am dedicated to helping individuals, families and business owners identify and resolve air quality issues. Just as air is essential to life, pure air is vital to health, longevity and quality of life. Finding the source of contaminants in the air, measuring the quantity of pollutants, and using advanced technology to remedy the issue are necessary first steps in eliminating hazards, improving the quality of life, and reducing rates of morbidity and mortality. That is the mission of Hamza Mbareche Consulting. And that is my promise to you.
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