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Activists put giant gas masks on UK landmarks to protest dangerous air pollution

British police arrested eight activists from environmental group Greenpeace after they scaled iconic London landmarks including Nelson’s column in Trafalgar square. The activists were protesting dangerous air pollution levels in the city.

Four people scaled Nelson’s Column and fitted the 171 foot long statue with a gas mask on early Monday morning.

Other monuments targeted by the activists include those of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill outside parliament, Queen Victoria in front of Buckingham Palace, and Sherlock Holmes on Baker street.

Air pollution in the UK is a public health crisis, responsible for over 40,000 premature deaths in the nation, according to Greenpeace.

Air quality in major cities across the world suffers from pollution. In London in particular, diesel exhaust from vehicles has made the city one of the most polluted in Europe.  While diesel fuel emits less carbon dioxide than gasoline, it contains harmful pollutants like nitrogen dioxide.  

Greenpeace campaigners said their actions highlight the need for urgent legislation to tackle air quality in London.

"Monitoring shows that if these statutes were real people, many of them would often be breathing dangerous, illegal air," campaigner Areeba Hamid told the Guardian.

The group has targeted at least 17 statues in London.

The stunts are a part of Greenpeace’s #CleanAirNow campaign, which is calling on the British government to develop a clean air action plan by regulating the automobile industry and creating “clean air zones” around schools and hospitals.

Greenpeace hopes more politicians will answer the call to protect London’s children, elderly, and most vulnerable citizens from dangerous, polluted air.