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Dirty Air? Art Display Illustrates Invisible Pollution in NC

A free public art display on a downtown Raleigh building will illustrate the amount of particulate matter in the air in real-time. (Nancy Pierce)
A free public art display on a downtown Raleigh building will illustrate the amount of particulate matter in the air in real-time. (Nancy Pierce)
March 15, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. – Your lungs will feel poor air quality long before your eyes can see it. That reality is the inspiration for a free public art exhibit that will illustrate pollution in real time.

"Particle Falls" will be on display in downtown Raleigh from later this month through April.

Artist and scientist Andrea Polli created an animated light display with an air-monitoring device and specialized computer software. Paige Donnely is the public engagement manager with Novozymes, a biotechnology firm involved with the display.

"One thing that this art installation will do is really bring awareness to the quality of air that we currently have in the Triangle, as well as help educate the public on options that are available for clean transportation," she said.

Representatives will be on location most nights to share information about air quality and clean transportation options. Raleigh was ranked the 142nd most polluted city last year by the American Lung Association and traditionally ranks above the national average of U.S. cities for annual particle pollution.

Terry Lansdell is the spokesperson for Clean Air Carolina, one of the organizations supporting the event, and explains visually what people will see.

"It reads particulate matter or pollution in the air and then it translates that into an artistic display of red and yellow dots on this blue waterfall of light," he said.

Particulate matter is a major contributor to poor air quality and climate change.

Heather Brutz with the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, a sponsor of the exhibit, says the vibrant display will make it hard for people to ignore how human behavior impacts the environment.

"We are hoping that people will start thinking about some of the choices they can make," she said. "For example, they can choose to walk or bike or take public transit or use alternative fuels, or drive more fuel-efficient cars."

In addition to contributing to climate change, fine particulate matter is linked to asthma, heart and lung disease, cancer, poor birth outcomes and premature death.

Particle Falls will be located across the street from the Raleigh Times Bar at 14 East Hargett St., and will be on display March 24 through April 23.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC