Air Clean Up
What Is Glow in the Dark Pollution?
Aug 16 2018
Air pollution is a growing concern for much of the world’s population, especially those living in big cities like London. The Unmask My City project, created by the Global Climate and Health Alliance, is a new initiative aimed at raising awareness about the seriousness of the air pollution situation through glow-in-the-dark air pollution masks.
The LED masks serve a twofold purpose; on the one hand, they can serve to filter out unwanted contaminants from the air we breathe, thus making our outdoor journeys less damaging to our health. On the other, they change colour depending on the concentration of pollutants in the environment, alerting others to the gravity and urgency of the air quality crisis.
How the masks work
The respirators were designed by Greg McNevin, a cyclist who was concerned about the alarming amounts of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) he was inhaling on a daily basis. PM2.5 is so small in size that it can be inhaled into the lungs and can actually infiltrate the bloodstream, causing severe health ramifications further down the line.
The sensors are connected to the AirBeam pollution monitoring scheme, linked to the AirCasting website via a Bluetooth-enabled app. This allows the mask to monitor real-time levels of pollution wherever the user is in the city and send the information to a centralised database, giving other users the opportunity to view it and tailor their journeys to avoid pollution hotspots.
However, the masks also provide a more immediate assessment of air quality. When concentrations of PM2.5 are below 12 µg/m³ (the level considered to be “safe”), the mask glows green. However, between 12.1 µg/m³ and 35.4 µg/m³ , the LEDs on its face turn yellow to warn of moderate danger for vulnerable users. Between 35.5 µg/m³ and 55.4 µg/m³ the LEDs turn orange and above 55.5 µg/m³ they turn red, demonstrating unhealthy and dangerously unhealthy levels of air pollution.
Spreading the message
The masks were developed to try and provide a visual demonstration of just how serious air pollution is as an issue. In the UK capital, poor air quality is believed to be responsible 9,400 premature deaths every single year and London mayor Sadiq Khan is urging the government to take immediate action to improve air quality and reduce transport-related pollution.
For his part, he has pledged to introduce the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) over one year ahead of schedule, discouraging visitors and residents from bringing heavily polluting vehicles into the city. However, more action is needed from all quarters, including the government, corporations and private citizens to ensure that damaging levels of air pollution are brought under control.
On a personal level, this means minimising our use of polluting vehicles and taking public transport more often when possible. It’s hoped that the bright lights and arresting visuals of the glow-in-the-dark masks can serve as an immediate reminder to London residents of their own responsibility in cleaning up London’s heavily polluted airways.
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