This is one of those beautiful moments when art meets science and produces something that makes sense on every level. Air pollution is a big problem in our world today, especially in London, as one of my favourite campaigning groups Climate Rush tells us ‘Breathing London’s air reduces the life expectancy of those who die prematurely from it by 11 years on average.’ According to Caroline Lucas MP, London’s Air Quality is the worst in Europe. The biggest sources of air pollutants are industry and motor vehicles.
Now here comes a potential solution: Catalyst Clothing. It ‘harnesses the power of a photocatalyst to break down air borne pollutants. A catalyst is a term used to describe something that makes a reaction proceed at a greater rate but isn’t actually consumed during that reaction. A photocatalyst gains the energy it needs to be active from light.’ Essentially what this techonology can do is break down harmful chemicals into non harmful chemicals. Most of them are broken down immediately, where as others will be broken down whilst washing the clothes (something that already happens with normal clothes).
In order for this to make a difference it needs to be happening on a big scale. The benefits would come to those in the immediate surrounding of the clothing (especially the wearer) but for real impact, we would need many of us taking part. “An estimate of the required level of uptake for the Catalytic Clothing indicates that a significant reduction in the level of air borne pollutants in a large city such as London could be achieved if, for every metre of pavement width, 30 people wearing Catalytic Clothes walked past each minute.”
Catalyst Clothing is a partnership between the incredible artist Professor Helen Storey MBE and scientist Professor Tony Ryan OBE. The two came together to find this new application of an existing technology. The pair are working with Ecover to develop washing powder/liquid that would contain the photocatalyst so that we would not have to change our behaviour to benefit from this technology apart from washing our clothes with the specialist product. The photocatalyst could also be added to fabric and clothing at manufacture stage, although we are unlikely to see this in the cheap fast fashion stores, it could be something that sets apart the retailers on the high street that are actually dedicated to tackling our environmental problems.
Catalyst clothing have produced this beautiful video with model Erin O’Connor and music by Radiohead.
Whilst we are supporting this technology developing, we need to do something about our air pollution now. Thankfully Climate Rush, the incredible environmental campaigning group started by Tamsin Omond and inspired by The Suffragettes, are doing an action on this today. Recent actions by Climate Rush have included The Railway Adventure, campaigning against the rising rail fares in the UK and ‘Climate Viagra’ urging Deputy Prime Minister before the Lib Dems Party Conference to not be ‘impotent but be important’ on Climate Change.
Tonight at 6.30pm in Soho, they are holding a roadblock, where they will be staging a ‘die-in’ bringing attention to our Mayor Boris Johnson to make the changes that he needs to in order to protect our lives and make our air quality more breathable. They are calling for him to ban the most polluting vehicles from the most polluted areas.