Invisible air pollutants are all around us. Some are created naturally whilst others are manmade and a danger to human health. Commissioned by UWE for the Our Planet Our Health initiative, artist Luke Jerram has been commissioned to create a sculpture of just one of these invisible particles and exhibit it in a number of different contexts.

Diesel soot particles, emitted from vehicles, are composed primarily of black carbon but also contain other substances, such as metal from break pads and silicate from the roads.

Created 3 million X larger than a real 1μm sized particle, the artwork will stand 3m tall. The sculpture will become a point of discussion, opening up conversations about a whole range of issues. The diesel soot sculpture will enable the public to ask:

  • What are the human health implications of air pollution?
  • What is in the air we breathe?
  • What is the health impact of driving by car to work verses cycling or walking? How do our transport choices impact on human health?
  • How does air quality effect urban planning? – Such as the location of roads, schools, hospitals, trees/hedges/parks.
  • How is air pollution influenced by the weather and climate change?

According to the World Health Organisation, air pollution contributes to 6.5 million deaths globally and more than 80% of people living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO guidelines. A significant contributor to air pollution in the UK is the diesel engine.

Size of Particles we inhale

The depths to which particulate matter can penetrate our airways are influenced by particle size, breathing patterns and individual lungs. In general, the smaller the particle the further into the lung it will penetrate. Typically, particles with an aerodynamic diameter smaller than 10 μm will be inhaled and be deposited in the upper airway, whilst those with a smaller diameter will typically penetrate progressively further into the lung. Ultrafine particles may also enter the bloodstream.

Our Planet Our Health at UWE and funded by the Wellcome Trust.