Who does not think that shopping malls are useful? Or even fancy? But have you ever considered shopping malls as sources of environmental pollution? This is actually a fact in many cases due to several activities usually associated with shopping malls or shopping centers:
Dry Cleaning Pollution. Probably the main activity generating pollution or with the potential to generate pollution in the shopping mall and close vicinity is dry cleaning. Many malls or shopping centers have dry cleaners. And dry cleaners are using chlorinated or other organic solvents which are generally toxic to humans. Thus shopping mall contamination with such toxic chemicals may be generated, affecting also vicinity areas.
Mall Pollution Retailers. Other operations within a shopping mall may generate environment pollution. This may include a series of retailers such as those storing and selling chemicals. In shopping centers home products stores (having paints, glues, fuel, etc.) or leather stores (having leather products) are examples. Such storage and handling of chemicals, especially those involving organic solvents, may generate volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air, and by this, pollute the indoor air. This fact was proven at a mall in China (Guangzhou city) where both indoor and outdoor air samples were found to be contaminated by VOCs (Tang et al. 2005. “Volatile organic compounds in a multi-storey mall in Guangzhou, South China”. Published in Atmospheric Environment, 2005, vol. 39, no.38, pages 7374-7383). The study shows that the highest air pollution was in the fast-food court and in a leather product department store. Other indoor emission sources for VOCs (except stored products) are cooking stoves and building materials. Chlorinated hydrocarbons (solvents) may also originate from various "mall pollution retailers" (distinct from dry cleaners) being used as cleaning agents or deodorizers.
Traffic and Parking Pollution. Shopping malls are usually accessed by cars and thus they generate a dense traffic during the operation hours. We are already familiar with the huge parking lots that get totally filled with cars. Not only that traffic increases substantially in the vicinity of malls, but cars are usually driven at slow speeds when most of the toxic exhaust is generated. Although the exhaust gases will get into the atmosphere and thus dilute, studies have shown that within the mall and its vicinity air quality may be affected. Additionally, noise pollution may also be a factor for nearby residences.
Plastic Waste Pollution. A study from India identified the plastic bags that usually pile up in and around malls may be a major cause of pollution.
Greenhouse Gases Pollution. Malls are big energy consumers and thus generators of greenhouse gases. By this, malls contribute to global warming and indirectly pollute our planet.
Overall, while dry cleaners remain the major source of mall pollution which may generate contamination expanding in the neighborhood community, many other sources of pollution within the mall (each of them seemingly insignificant by itself) may add up causing sometimes major pollution issues within the mall perimeter itself.
Thus, strategies for Shopping Mall Pollution Defense are needed. Here are just some examples:
All these strategies are valuable. Additionally, at an individual level, probably the best strategy will be to avoid living within 1 block from a shopping mall or shopping center and minimize the shopping time. This will also ensure savings, which is critical in this uncertain economy.