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New Exhibit Shows Real-Time Spikes In Air Pollution

Ambient air pollution levels projected onto a Hargett Street building in downtown Raleigh.
Courtesy of

A traveling art installation in downtown Raleigh is showing passersby how much pollution is in the air around them.Air quality advocacy group Clean Air Carolina is one of the sponsors of the evening exhibit, called Particle Falls.

Program Director Terry Lansdell said the ambient air pollution levels are projected onto a Hargett Street building as a constant, clear blue waterfall of light. Pollution shows up as dots of light.

“Sometimes they're red, yellow, orange,” Lansdell said. “And the more particulate matter in the air, the more dots appear, and the larger the dots get on the waterfall. And it, really, on high pollution levels, shows up as a fireball of light on this waterfall of blue.”

Lansdell said air pollution is variable, and he hopes this visual representation will keep people from taking it for granted. Particle Falls will be projected nightly through April 23rd.

“Monitoring is important because we can't always rely on businesses to do the right thing for pollution emission,” he said. “We also don't always know where the pollution comes from. We might be being polluted from South Carolina or North Carolina or other places, and monitoring will help us understand where pollution may come from in the future.”

Lansdell said only about one-third of North Carolina counties monitor air quality.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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