This Air Is Toxic

Costumes and Creative Protest designed by Liam Geary Baulch for Stop Killing Londoners
THIS AIR IS TOXIC, window display for solo show

An exhibition and week of events in a shop front on New Cross Road to coincide he release of a study showing that New Cross Gate and Deptford are up to six times above the world health organisations limit for the small dangerous PM2.5 air pollution particles.

A serious problem which is being faced all across London, and affects poorer and BME communities the hardest. Liam collaborated with local academics, artists and activists to create a week of free art and discussions about air pollution in the local area. Something Liam learnt more about while working with the group Stop Killing Londoners to design creative protests.

As you walk, cycle, take a bus, or drive along New Cross Road you may notice a new sign, it reads as a warning to all who pass it, “This Air is Toxic”.

You might not expect a road with schools, a university, health clinics and local pubs to be the 48th most polluted in the UK. However the study, published earlier this month by Goldsmiths Professor Jennifer Gabrys, who led the Citizen Sense research team. They found that between October 2016 and September 2017 highs of 150 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre of air were recorded by citizens from October 2016 to September 2017, who used ‘dustbox’ monitors to collect air samples. The recommended amount of PM2.5 is 25 micrograms per cubic metre, and the EU legal limit is 40 micrograms.

The new findings show a rise since 2012 when New Cross Road was named the 48th most polluted in the UK – 101 micrograms per cubic metre. The results are above Lewisham Council’s own records, which may be because the council are not taking nearly as many readings as regularly as the local people and organisations who helped create this new citizen sense study.

Despite the statistics, the Mayor of London has failed to include Lewisham in his new special budgets for tackling air pollution across the city. Campaigners and activists in London are currently pressuring the mayor to do more to tackle the problem. Mums for Lungs have been writing letters to the government, and 4 members of the group Stop Killing Londoners were recently put in prison for protesting about the issue. Representatives from both groups along with local school and parent campaigns spoke as part of the event to promote action locally.

Members of the public could even wear some of the art works in the form of Totobobo masks designed to protect people from the worst effects of air pollution.

Air pollution symbols drawn on Totobobo air pollution masks
Air pollution poster designed for Stop Killing Londoners and given away at the exhibition