DUBAI EXPAT STORIES. Chris and Thomas: On a mission to save lives

Air quality is an elephant in the room – especially in the Middle East, where old or unclean air conditioning systems can give rise to a host of health issues, say Chris Leighton and Thomas Day, both from the UK, and  co-founders of AirZones, which sort out indoor air quality in the region, with a simple, cost-effective solution, now available to all. 

“Working in the property and real estate business, we were frustrated by how slowly the industry was adopting the new technology and solutions that are coming to market and making a real difference to air quality yet are commonly ignored,” recalls Chris.

“It wasn’t until we were discussing where to meet for an evening meal with our children, though, that the solution dawned. Understanding the importance of clean air, we had no idea where to book a table; which restaurants were healthy and which weren’t. We can see through the customer satisfaction rating, price, the menu and pictures of the place, but nothing about the health, cleanliness or air quality, yet we knew, if we could, it would significantly influence our buying decision.

“We founded AirZones to tie these two together. If we can significantly influence customers’ buying behavior, with a simple star rating for indoor air quality, then we drive traffic and spend. This in turn motivates the market to adjust and commercial premises are motivated and driven to invest in the clean air technology… Ultimately, we unlock the market. We don’t sell the tech, we don’t sell the solutions, we drive the market and the spend, which in turn allows the money to be invested and for everyone to start breathing cleaner, healthier air.

“As for how far we’ve gone, we’ve signed partnerships across all the main verticals now, from hotels, to restaurants, café to schools and gyms. Now we start to scale across these, driving customer interest and bringing healthier air to all – this is where it gets exciting as we start to impact the lives of many, many people,” Chris said.

Both the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) regard air pollution as the greatest environmental threat to humanity, citing it as being responsible for over seven million deaths a year.

“Think for a minute about how careful you are about what you drink, you would never drink ‘dirty’ water. Yet, the air we breathe, some 11,000 litres a day (that’s roughly 10,997 litres more than the volume of water we drink each day), is circulated through every major organ in our body within seconds of passing our lips – and we mostly ignore it!” said Chris. 

It’s the invisible pollutants in the air that are responsible for far more than lung disease, with the latest research showing head-to-toe harm, including heart disease, diabetes, dementia, liver problems, bladder cancer and brittle bones, he further said. 

“Fertility, the development of fetuses, miscarriages as well as children’s brain development have all been shown to be affected by common airborne pollutants – pollutants found every day in homes, restaurants, hotels, offices… in fact, everywhere we live, work and play in our built environment.

“Arguably, there’s no greater mission that can have a bigger impact on not only our own health today, but also for the health of our children,” Chris said.

Chris and Tom went to primary school together. “So we learned to read together, now we’re aiming to save the world together,” said Chris.

After school, Tom earned a bachelor of science in estate surveying, while Chris studied mechanical engineering. Both ended up doing MBAs later in life.

Sharing their life’s journey, Chris said: “Growing up in the north of the UK, we were always outside, summer was biking and running, winter was rugby – and strangely this inspires us even today. The air quality we took for granted should be what we all breathe, the smells from nature, not the artificial chemical smells we get from a can.

“After university we both travelled then started on the corporate ladder, working in the real estate and construction sectors.  It wasn’t until I became a dad that the world shifted, from being head-down and driven by the next opportunity, I became far more concerned with the future of our planet and what we are all doing to it.” 

“We only launched AirZones in Dubai this year, so the plan for the rest of 2021 and 2022 is to expand across the UAE and truly make a difference to the air quality that we all breathe. 

“We believe we have created a business and a tool that is truly making a difference to indoor air quality across Dubai, so why not make it available for everyone? We’re on a mission to saves lives by making clean, safe and healthy indoor air a reality for everyone, everywhere,” Chris said.


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