‘Pollution Pods’ Let You Choke on the Air of the World’s Most Polluted Cities

It’s no longer controversial to say we’re slowly killing our planet. The most obvious signs of this are in the congestion, pollution, and abysmal air quality of some of the world’s greatest cities. British artist Michael Pinksy sought to demonstrate to visitors of a unique London exhibit just how bad things have become.

His recent “Pollution Pods” exhibit at London’s Somerset House was a simple one. Five geodesic domes were designed to emulate the air quality in five major cities around the world. The series of transparent structures were interconnected and sealed to maintain a specific environment within each dome. Visitors began in the first dome, which represented Tautra, Norway with some of the cleanest air on Earth. The path progressed through London, England; New Delhi, India; Beijing, China; and São Paulo, Brazil, home to some of the world’s most polluted air.

pollution pods michael pinksy somerset house london
Somerset House

The atmosphere within each dome was meticulously designed to recreate the gas levels and airborne matter within its respective destination. Everything from ozone and nitrogen levels to visible particulates and carbon monoxide was considered. London’s air, for example, appears clean and clear. But the real danger lies in its toxic, unusually high nitrogen levels. Estimates surmise the average Londoner shortens their life by as much as 16 months by breathing the city’s air. By contrast, New Delhi’s air is a haze of nasty, visible particles which could purportedly shorten its citizens’ lives by up to four years.

The unique Pollution Pods were initially commissioned from Pinksy to appear in the wilds of Norway. It was a fitting and dramatic debut which provided visitors with a stark contrast between the pristine Scandinavian air and the almost unbreathable atmosphere of the world’s most densely populated urban centers. The latest installation at Somerset House was quite intentional. The neighborhood was constructed around the time of the Industrial Revolution, the clearest point in our history when mankind began exploiting and overusing our planet’s resources. Today, the area around Somerset House is arguably the capital city’s most polluted.

The “Pollution Pods” exhibit ran temporarily from April 18-25, 2018. While you may have missed the live installation, Pinsky’s point is an easy one to appreciate without having visited first-hand.

If you’re at all concerned about the air quality in your own home — and you should be — check out our round-up of the best, most stylish air purifiers.