Watch The Dress that Shows You How Dirty Your Bronx Air Is

Artist Dominque Paul wears a dress the measures air pollution.
Nexus Media

She looks like a club kid walking through the streets of the South Bronx but she’s not going dancing.

Dominique Paul is on a mission to use her art, a light-up dress, just how dirty the air is thanks to pollution from traffic and other sources and what better place to show it off and help educate folks than the South Bronx neighborhood of Mott Haven which has one of the worst air qualities in New York City.

Collectively, the South Bronx has some of the highest rates of asthma in the nation at nine times the national average.

According to Popular Science:

“Paul debuted the dress as part of a residency funded by IDEAS xLAB, a nonprofit that uses art to raise awareness of public health issues. She has taken the dress out for walks in the South Bronx, which has some of the poorest air quality in New York City. Her goal is to spark conversations about air pollution.

Paul recently joined a walk organized by South Bronx Unite. The group’s president, Mychal Johnson, led a crowd through Mott Haven and Port Morris, neighborhoods in the South Bronx. They stopped every few blocks to talk about economic and environmental issues facing residents. Paul explained how the air monitor attached to her handbag measures fine particulate matter, microscopic bits of dirt and soot floating through the air. Vehicle exhaust is one source of particulates, which are small enough to enter the bloodstream and have been linked to lung and heart disease.

As she walked, Paul explained the Air Quality Index to those assembled. “Green is good,” she said. Yellow is worse. Orange means children and the elderly are at risk, and red means everyone may experience health effects. When it’s red, Paul said, “you might want to consider wearing a mask.” She raised her makeshift breathing mask like a flight attendant miming a safety demonstration.

“Right now, it’s fairly good,” Paul said, pointing to the lights on her dress, which oscillated between green and yellow. It was a weekend morning, she pointed out, with no rush-hour traffic, and the wind was blowing.

But, as the crowd paused on a walkway over the Major Deegan Expressway, Paul’s dress started to flicker between yellow and orange. The South Bronx is surrounded by freeways and overrun with diesel-powered garbage trucks. The asthma hospitalization rate among children living in Mott Haven and Port Morris is around three times the city average.”

Watch the video below and then read the rest of the article over at Popular Science!


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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.