Lungs of the City

JOE PEPLER/PINPEP/E.ON; AMER GHAZZAL/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO (INSET)

NOT-SO-FRESH AIR: A new sculpture helps city dwellers visualize the invisible air pollution they breathe in every day.

JIM MCMAHON/MAPMAN®

A larger-than-life pair of lungs made from steel, wood, and fiberglass was recently installed in London, England. The 5 meter (16 foot) sculpture aims to raise awareness about the harmful effects of air pollution on people’s health.

The lungs fill with different colors of smoke based on real-time measurements of different air pollutants, like nitrogen dioxide (NO2). This gas mainly comes from vehicles burning gasoline and diesel fuel. Inhaling NO2 can irritate the lungs and worsen breathing problems like asthma.

Air pollution has been an issue in major cities like London for decades, says Daniela Fecht, a public health researcher at Imperial College London. “The best solution is to bring pollution levels down by significantly decreasing road traffic.” Instead of driving, Fecht suggests walking, biking, or taking public transit.

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