Professor Iain Stewart with E.ON UK CEO Michael Lewis

A new 16ft installation that visually represents the issue of air pollution has been welcomed and supported by the University's Professor Iain Stewart MBE.

LUNGS was unveiled in London by E.ON on Thursday as part of the energy company's Clean Air campaign (see link below). The installation uses near real-time data on pollution levels across the capital, focusing upon Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide and PM 2.5. When pollution levels reach the limits set by the World Health Organisation, coloured smoke is released into the LUNGS representing the proportionate levels of the three featured pollutants.

Professor Stewart, who is the head of the University's Sustainable Earth Institute, and a UNESCO Chair in Geoscience and Society, welcomed this fresh public spotlight on air pollution. He said:

"Highlighting scientific concerns over dirty air in our towns and cities is an important way to highlight the wider critical issue of climate change, because improving the quality of the air we breath each day depends on changing our environmental behaviour and embracing clean energy technologies, such as electric vehicles. But that in turn shifts the focus to how we generate that electricity, which can only be achieved by shifting rapidly away from energy production by fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. That is why it is important to support energy companies like E.ON that are leading the transition to renewable energy."

The unveiling of the LUNGS installation marked the launch of E.ON's White paper on 'Clean Air', which focuses upon the lack of public awareness around air pollution and some of the key issues that need to be tackled, from greener energy for businesses and homes, to better support for those wanting to switch to electric cars. Iain supported E.ON's strategy document with media interviews in London and across the UK, including news broadcasts on Radio Plymouth and Radio Devon.

Professor Stewart, who sits on the Devon Zero-Carbon Taskforce, said: 

‘'Toxic air is the UK's number one environmental hazard and public health priority. It demands national strategy and work to raise awareness. Dirty air remains out of sight and out of mind, and whilst exposure in the UK has reduced over the last half century thanks to cleaner energy technologies, improved vehicle regulation and clean air zones in our cities, we're only learning now just how dangerous toxic air can be. Gases such as nitrogen oxides choke the air in our congested towns and tiny particulates (PM2.5, PM10) work their way deep into our bodies.There's really no such thing as a 'safe' level for air pollution - it impacts our health."

And he added: 

"Electricity backed by renewable sources has a real role to play in making a positive impact on the air we all breathe and is the start of things to come. It’s a collective responsibility. Much like climate change, clean air requires action from multiple people to make a real difference. Governments alone can’t solve the issue, neither can industry or individuals."

LUNGS is located in Potters Fields Park, London, and is likely to be used for a number of public engagement projects after its installation finishes.

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