Invisible Dust

London | Friday 25 May
Pollution level: Moderate

Poor Air Quality Linked to Mental Illness in Children


A recent article in the Guardian newspaper reports that new research has established a link between air pollution and increased mental illness in children.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal BMJ Open, found that even relatively small increases in air pollution were ‘associated with a significant increase in treated psychiatric problems’. Although it is the first study of its kind, a growing body of evidence that suggests air pollution can affect mental and cognitive health, and that children are particularly affected by air pollution, supports the study.

The article quotes leading air pollution research scientist Prof Frank Kelly, King’s Collage London, who is currently working with Invisible Dust on Kasia Molga’s ‘Human Sensor’ project. This Friday, Frank Kelly will deliver an educational workshop to nine lucky Manchester science students on ‘Understanding Air Pollution’, as part of Invisible Dust’s Human Sensor Educational Programme.

Kelly explained how this study “builds on existing evidence that children are particularly sensitive to poor air quality probably because their lifestyles increase the dose of air pollution they are exposed too – i.e. they are more active – and that developing organs may be more vulnerable until they fully mature.”

The research, collected from over 500,000 under-18s in Sweden, examined air pollution exposure alongside records of medicines prescribed for mental illnesses. The research found that a 10mg/m3 increase in NO2 corresponded to a 9% increase in mental illness in the children. The EU and WHO limit for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is 40mg/m3, but levels can reach many times that in polluted cities such as London.  In fact London breached annual EU air pollution limits just one week into 2016.

Invisible Dust is currently working with digital artist Kasia Molga and scientist Professor Frank Kelly, as part of Manchester European City of Science, to create an exciting new project ‘Human Sensor’ which explores the issue of urban air pollution. In July 2016 performs will traverse the city wearing air quality responsive illuminating capes created by Molga. This public performance will offer a rare opportunity for the public to engage with the issue of invisible pollutants though a visible, tangible, live artwork. Data collected though the project will be available to the public though an exciting and ambitious interactive website. You can read more about the project here.

‘Human Sensor’ is commissioned and produced by Invisible Dust in partnership with Manchester, European City of Science. It is supported by The Wellcome Trust’s Sustaining Excellence Award and Arts Council England.


1 comment

  1. Ashok Ranchhod says:

    Excellent idea and visuals. Really needed as people do not understand air pollution because it is invisible.

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