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COP25 visitors immerse themselves in pollution pod created by UEL academic 

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Dr Michael Pinsky's Pollution Pods have been experienced by over 20,000 people

Visitors of the UN Climate Change Conference COP 25 in Madrid might begin experiencing shortness of breath as they walk through smog in Dr Michael Pinsky’s Pollution Pods. The immersive art installation allows people to experience the air quality of some of the world’s most polluted cities – London, Beijing, São Paulo, New Delhi – as well as one of the most pristine environments on earth, Tautra in Norway.

However, there’s nothing dangerous in the air in the pods, which make use of safe perfume blends and fog machines to imitate air quality. Outside the pods, however, air pollution has been declared a public health priority by the World Health Organization (WHO).  Largely caused by the same burning of fossil fuels that is driving climate change, polluted air is poisoning nine out of ten of us and killing over seven million of us prematurely every year.

The Pollution Pods, by Dr Michael Pinsky, lecturer at the University of East London, has been experienced by over 20,000 people since their launch at the Starmus Festival in Norway in June 2018, and are on display at the UN Climate Change Conference until Friday 13 December.

Dr Pinsky said, “The Pollution Pods recreate the air that is breathed in some of the most polluted cities in the world. I have tried to distil the whole bodily sense of being in each place. For instance, being in São Paulo seems like a sanctuary compared to New Delhi, until your eyes start to water from the sensation of ethanol, whilst Tautra is unlike any air you’ll have ever breathed before, it is so pure.” 

As part of the Clean Air Initiative, in which governments must commit to making our air safe by 2030 at the latest, and to encourage urgent action on climate change for the sake of our health, world leaders attending the COP25 Summit will be encouraged to walk through this viscerally powerful art installation.

Visitors to the Pollution Pods at COP25 will experience the sensation of air pollution for a few minutes, but breathing toxic air is the reality for millions of people every day of their lives.