Air pollution remains our ultimate enemy that we have created over the years. Little do we know how it is affecting our health and life, like a slow poison. Various researches are done to find the ultimate solution and in one recent interesting research painting with light shows photo evidence of air pollution.

Paint with light, an initiative by the University of Birmingham, where researchers and scientists joined hands to make invisible air pollution visible. Also, to demonstrate various health risks posed to people working and living in the UK, Ethiopia, and India.

The team produced photographic evidence by combining low-cost air pollution sensors and digital light painting. The experiment illustrated pollution levels in different cities across 3 countries.  All this is a part of the Air of the Anthropocene project that has stimulated discussion around the impact of air pollution.

Artist Robin Price and the University of Birmingham environmental scientist Prof. Francis Pope created this project. Low-cost air pollution sensors measures PM mass concentrations. It took the sensors’ real-time signal and controlled a moving LED array. The array was programmed to flash more rapidly as PM concentration increased.

The Process of Painting With Light

  • As the artist moves the LED in front of camera, a long exposure photograph is taken.
  • During this, the flash becomes a dot on the photograph.
  • Since the artist is moving, he is not visible in the picture.
  • However, LED flashes are seen as they are bright. Thus, the more light dots on the photo means higher PM concentrations.


  • Ethopia – Here, air pollution varies dramatically between different locations here. PM2.5 levels in a kitchen using biomass stoves, that is 20 times greater than PM levels measured in areas nearby.
  • India – 2 children’s playgrounds in Delhi (1 in urban and other in rural Palampur), 500 km apart. PM2.5 is in Palampur playground that is at least 12.5 times less than PM levels in Delhi playground.
  • United Kingdom – In Wales, around the Port Talbot steelworks, large variations in air pollution are present. PM5 concentrations are in the range of 30-40 mg/m3 when the hourly average recorded is 24 mg/m3.

Exhibiting the Dangers – Air Pollution Evidences through Painting with Light

An exhibition of the Air of the Anthropocene project shows in a gallery in Los Angeles, Birmingham, and Belfast. The UN-Habitat, UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) are using the project to raise air pollution awareness. Four commissioned pollution light paintings and texts are to be displayed in Kampala, Uganda.

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Reality Check

Air pollution, one of the biggest threats to human health and environment, is a leading cause for global deaths. Around 99% of global population is breathing polluted air, resulting in 7 million premature deaths worldwide annually, according to WHO.

In Asia, the situation is worse as air pollution is a major problem in 2 most populous nations, India and China. Despite several air quality policies and actions, there is not much improvement. Moreover, over the last 5 decades, African countries are also experiencing deteriorating air quality.

PM or particulate matter is an air pollutant that affects human mortality and morbidity. Its impact on physical health includes strokes, cancers, and heart diseases. Thus, the higher PM concentration in air, the higher are the chances of developing life-threatening health conditions.

Source: ‘Painting with light’ illuminates photo evidence of air pollution


Elliot is a passionate environmentalist and blogger who has dedicated his life to spreading awareness about conservation, green energy, and renewable energy. With a background in environmental science, he has a deep understanding of the issues facing our planet and is committed to educating others on how they can make a difference.

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