PARTICLE FALLS is an animated light projection that reveals the invisible dangers in the air you are breathing. It is a dramatic public artwork that raises awareness of the presence and impact of particle pollution. Since 2016, Clean Air Carolina and partners have PROUDLY sponsored Particle Falls in three major North Carolina cities: CHARLOTTE, RALEIGH AND WINSTON-SALEM. Is your city next?

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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 a nephelometer, 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 Winston-Salem 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. Winston-Salem has been ranked as the 142 most polluted cities in 2016 and traditionally ranks above the national average of US cities for average annual particle pollution. We have 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. Exposure here in Downtown Winston-Salem can be especially dangerous as the rows of tall buildings can create an urban canyon trapping air pollution right where you breathe.

Ranked for high ozone days out of 228 metropolitan areas

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