We are proud to have hosted the animated environmental art display Particle Falls in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

February 28 – March 2, 2020






about particle falls


How does it work?

The PARTICLE FALLS animation is generated by translating real-time particulate matter data from the surrounding air into imagery, using specialized computer software designed by the artist Andrea Polli. The particulate sensing is done using an AirBeam, a scientific instrument that takes in air samples and gathers data about the concentration of particle pollution. A computer program transforms the particulate data into visual bursts of bright color over a background of falling blue light. The more dots of color you see, the more particles there are in the air you’re breathing. The visualization updates with new air data in real time.


Notice what happens to PARTICLE FALLS when a diesel-powered or gasoline vehicle comes along. Compare that to a passing bicycle. How about an idling car? Or compare the number of particles on a clear day versus a hazy day. Wind patterns will also make unexpected real-time changes. This work emphasizes the fragility and unstable nature of our Earth’s atmosphere and the human role in increasing that instability.

What is particulate matter?

Fine particulate matter is a form of air pollution that occurs year-round and is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets, the smallest measuring 2.5 microns or less in diameter – just 1/30th the width of a human hair.  While larger particles known as soot affect your health, it is the tiny, fine particulate matter which is far more dangerous to your health because it can be inhaled deeply into the lungs, enter the bloodstream and cross the blood-brain barrier. Toxic gases also can “hitchhike” into your body on fine particles.  Sources of particle pollution in Charlotte include cars, trucks, diesel buses and construction equipment, landscaping tools, agriculture, industrial facilities, power plants, biomass, and residential wood burning.

Your Health and Particulate Matter

There is no safe level of particulate matter. These particles are so small that our lungs cannot cough them out. North Carolina’s air quality has improved in the past few years due to a strong regulatory environment. However, fine particle pollution – at any level – is linked to a long list of serious health problems including asthma, heart and lung disease, cancer, adverse birth outcomes and even premature death.

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thank you to our 2020 sponsors