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Clothes that highlight air pollution are coming to London

By
Kyra Hanson
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The only reminder of the dirty air we breathe is usually just the black stuff that lines every commuter's nostrils, so it's easy to forget that those sputtering exhaust fumes kill up to 9,500 people per year in the capital.

London mayor Sadiq Khan is tackling London's toxic air by introducing a £10 charge on the most polluting vehicles, but imagine if there was a way to avoid the most heavily polluted areas of the city through the clothes you wear.

This is the thinking behind Human Sensor, a high-tech fashion range designed by media artist and environmentalist Kasia Molga, in collaboration with professors from King's College London.

Photo by Nick Harrison

Okay, so it may make the models look like geometric-shaped sheep, but the tech is clever. As the wearer breathes, sensors embedded in the material collect data on the quality of the air, then LED lights flash white or blue if the air is clean, and danger zone red with high levels of PM2.5. (New research published by the World Health Organisation in May showed that London has breached safe levels of pollutant particles known as PM10, so we predict air pollution overload.)

London-based Molga, an asthma sufferer herself says her body's sensitivity 'as an environmental indicator for poor air quality' was the starting point for the idea. She hopes that 'after seeing Human Sensor people will have an increased awareness of the quality of the air we breathe, how it affects our bodies and our health, and how we can change our behaviour to ensure that clean air is available to everyone.'  

Realistically once you factor in time and travel costs, not many of us would actually reroute our journeys to avoid these pollution hotspots. But this is certainly an eye-catching way of making this invisible problem visible and keeping those ever-present environmental issues from slipping down the agenda.  

Photo by Nick Harrison

Human Sensor debuted in Manchester this week and is coming to London in October 2016 as part of a Human Sensor UK tour. 

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