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These ‘Pollution Pods’ will measure London’s air quality in real time for Earth Day

Written by
Alexandra Sims

It’s no secret that London is one smoggy city. But how does our black-bogey-inducing air compare to other places around the world? Find out for yourself at Somerset House, whose grand eighteenth-century courtyard is being taken over by five ‘Pollution Pods’ to mark Earth Day on April 22  the world’s largest environmental movement.

They may look like those igloos that pop-up around the city each Christmas, but rather than finding pricey food inside, you’ll be confronted with recreations of the air in different locations across the globe.

Created by British artist Michael Pinsky, the pods will be interlinked, taking people on a tour of atmospheres across three continents. Visitors will start off in a pod emulating the conditions in Tautra, an island in Norway. It’s the cleanest air of the lot, and when it’s up it will easily be the cleanest air in the whole of London. The journey continues through Beijing, São Paulo and on to London’s toxic output of nitrogen dioxide and New Delhi’s haze of airborne particulates. Don’t worry, there’s no danger of breathing in any harmful gases; they will all be removed using special technology.

Alongside the pods, visitors will be able to see Choropleth, a colour-changing Union Jack flag, which will go from red, white and blue to grey and black as it’s exposed to London’s ultraviolet radiation in real time. There’ll also be a chance to explore Somerset House’s secret coalholes where mushrooms are being grown thanks to educational food-growing project Edible Utopia.

The day will be full of hands-on workshops and talks from artists, all hoping to increase our understanding of the natural world. And everything is totally free and drop-in. 

Earth Day at Somerset House is on April 22. All events are free and drop-in between noon and 3pm. The Pollution Pods will be on display in the courtyard April 18-24, with a free talk by creator Michael Pinsky at 1.30pm on April 22. 

Feeling green? Here are 29 small ways to help save the planet

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