'Dust sculptures' warn of danger from polluted air

'Dust sculptures' warn of danger from polluted air

Artist Rueangsak Anuwatwimon slowly sprinkles dust on the face of a sculpture of an elderly man, to demonstrate the insidious risk from air pollution. This is one of the art works on displayed until Jan 28 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center by Greenpeace South East Asia, which wants to alert people to the danger of tiny dust particles. (Photo: Greenpeace Thailand)
Artist Rueangsak Anuwatwimon slowly sprinkles dust on the face of a sculpture of an elderly man, to demonstrate the insidious risk from air pollution. This is one of the art works on displayed until Jan 28 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center by Greenpeace South East Asia, which wants to alert people to the danger of tiny dust particles. (Photo: Greenpeace Thailand)

Artist Rueangsak Anuwatwimon has applied his talent to awakening people to an invisible threat they unwittingly breathe in - by incorporating ultra fine dust collected from polluted areas across Thailand in his human sculptures.

His work carries a warning of the dangerous levels of invisible pollutants people inhale every day..

Greenpeace South East Asia is showcasing his art at an exhibition intended make the public and the government aware they are breathing air permeated with three times the safety level of fine dust, known as particulate matter 2.5, set by the World Health Organisation last year.

The WHO determined the level of PM 2.5 should not be above 10 microgrammes a cubic metre 

"This polluting dust is simply ignored by both people and the government," Chariya Senphong, Greenpeace coordinator for energy and climate change affairs, said on Wednesday after the opening of the exhibition.

But very high average levels of PM 2.5 were recorded each year in Sara Buri, with 36 microgrammes a cubic metre, and Thon Buri, with 31 microgrammes, she said. These were among the polluted areas that were the inspiration for Rueangsak's latest work.

Among the displays are the sculptures of a child, a mother and an elderly man who are covered with dust he collected from various polluted areas, including factory compounds. This group, featuring people most at risk, represent villagers struggling against its impact.

"I want people to see this invisible threat more clearly through my art," Rueangsak said.

He hoped to help build awareness. Many of these people had little or no information about the air they breathe, he said.

PM 2.5 is dangerously tiny dust, only 2.5 micrometres in diameter - much less than the width of a single human hair. These fine particles can be emitted by bushfires, power plants and even old cars.

Its major impact is on the respiratory system, because it lodges in the lungs.

Air pollution leads to the premature death of about 50,000 people each year in Thailand, Greenpeace said, citing the latest World Bank study.

The study found levels of air pollutants in 14 areas were above the WHO standard last year. In addition to Sara Buri and Thon Buri provinces, others deemed to be risk areas included Samut Sakhon, Ratchaburi, Khon Kaen and Chiang Mai, with levels of PM 2.5 ranging from 25 to 30 microgrammes a cubic metre, according to Greenpeace

The environmental group hopes the art display will make people more aware of their right to clean air, which is also the name of the exhibition.

"We should not take any risks on this issue and simply wait for the government to solve the problem," Ms Chairya said.

The exhibition continues until Jan 28 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center.

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