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Environment

These ‘Pollution Pods’ Have Sprung Up in London for a Great Reason

Ever wondered what it feels like to breathe the air in New Delhi? Or Sao Paulo? Or Norway? 

Well, if you’re in London this week, you can find out without having to travel across three different continents. 

An art installation which features five different “pollution pods” has made its home in the courtyard of the capital’s Somerset House, in its first appearance in the UK.

Take action: Thank the UK for Helping Millions More People Get Education, Good Nutrition, and Essential Medicines

The work, by British artist Michael Pinsky, is to mark Earth Day on April 22 — a global movement to raise awareness of the necessity of protecting the environment.

Each of the five pods simulates the air quality in a different city, but safely apparently. Visitors start in a pod filled with air that recreates that of the Norwegian island of Tautra — known for its pure, clean air. 

They’ll move on through Beijing, Sao Paulo, to London, and then New Delhi, which is the 11th most polluted city in the world, according to the World Health Organisation.  

Read more: You're Probably Breathing Polluted Air, Study Finds

According to Somerset House, the installation aims to “encapsulate the sense that the world — and our own impact on it — is interconnected.” 

“It is estimated that the average Londoner, exposed to the current levels of pollution recreated in the installation, would lose up to 16 months of their life, with a resident of New Delhi cutting their life short by four years,” it added in a statement

As well as the pods, visitors can also visit the “Choropleth” flag, which is being launched on Earth Day. It’s a colour-changing Union flag that reacts to ultraviolet radiation, and it will change from red, white, and blue, to black and grey. 

Read more: The Queen of England Wants to Save the World's Forests and Stop Climate Change

“The depletion of the ozone layer over London, due in large part to the capital’s congested roads and continual construction, leads to astronomical amounts of greenhouse gases being emitted into the environment,” said the venue. “This allows excessive amounts of UV radiation to unwittingly reach people on the city’s streets.” 

Air pollution is a key issue within the UK, where it is estimated to lead to the deaths of 40,000 people every year. 

In February, air pollution levels in the UK were declared “unlawful” in a High Court ruling, making it the third time the government has lost a legal judgement on the issue. 

Read more: Germany Is Planning Free Public Transit to Fight Air Pollution

“Millions of people in the UK live with illegally high levels of air pollution, which results in 40,000 early deaths every year,” said Mary Creagh, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, a cross-party group of ministers that examines how well government policies contribute to environmental protection and sustainable development. 

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN's Global Goals, which include action on climate change, global health, and creating sustainable cities and communities. You can join us by taking action on these issues here

The Pollution Pods will be on display from April 18 - 24, with a free talk by creator Michael Pinsky at 1:30 p.m. on April 22.