Enough Air Pollution: Extinction Rebellion UK stage die-in at the Science Museum

From 11am today, Extinction Rebellion UK turned the Making the Modern World gallery at the Science Museum in London into the scene of a die-in to highlight the effects of air pollution on our and our children’s health. The Science Museum Group accepts sponsorships from fossil fuel companies, with it’s children’s gallery Wonderlab sponsored by Norwegian energy company Equinor.

Wearing masks that read “Enough is Enough on Air Pollution,” and holding banners with facts demonstrating the links between air-pollution and serious health conditions, the diverse group which includes children as young as two, lay down in silence for 20 minutes. Once the die-in was concluded the silence was broken with speeches from parents, concerned about their children’s future.

Livestream here: 


Children taking part in the protest wore bespoke pollution masks made by crass artist Gee Vaucher, 3D – Massive Attack, Fashion Designer Bella Freud, artist and sculptor Gavin Turk and Turner Prize Winning artist Jeremy Deller. The masks were donated by the artists to Extinction Rebellion UK and will be auctioned later this year. The proceeds will be split between Extinction Rebellion and other groups working directly to end the harm caused to children by air pollution.

In 2015, Margaret Chan, former Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO), stated that WHO estimates that over 7 million people die from air pollution each year, making it the largest single environmental risk to health globally. Four and a half million of these deaths are due to outdoor air pollution. [1]

Each year in the UK, around 40,000 premature deaths are attributable to long term exposure to outdoor air pollution [2]. This is more than 100 deaths per day from cardiovascular problems, strokes and respiratory disease. There are around 9,400 excess deaths a year in London due to long term exposure to air pollution (from combined effect of PM2.5 particulates and nitrogen dioxide (NO2)). [3] Other health effects of long term exposure to air pollution include an increased risk of dementia and cognitive impairment, diabetes, and low birth weight and poor lung development in children.

The British government has repeatedly failed to tackle illegal levels of air pollution, and in May 2017 the UK was referred to the European Court of Justice over failure to take effective action. [4]

The families protesting today call on the government to start taking action now to reduce pollution levels in the UK. They demand that public and private institutions like the Science Museum declare a climate emergency, cut ties with the fossil fuel industry and tell the truth to the public about the climate and ecological emergency we are facing.

Juliana Westcott, mother of two from Lewisham, said“I want my children, two and four years old, to be able to grow up in this amazing city without this meaning that I am putting their health at risk. We don’t want to leave the city – our lives are here in London – but it breaks my heart to know that when I go back home today, their lungs will be full with so much pollution from what was just supposed to be a fun family day out in a museum.”

Miranda Irwin, mother of two and teacher, said“Air pollution is a social justice issue. It’s silently poisoning our children and the poorest and most vulnerable in our society have no choice but to live and breathe in the worst affected areas.”

Dr Terry Matthews, a member of Doctors for Extinction Rebellion, said: “Breathing illegal toxic air from fossil fuel combustion causes deaths and hospital admissions from heart attacks, strokes and asthma. Air pollution also increases the risk of dementia, impaired brain function and depression; and miscarriage and infertility. Child development is delayed and child lung development can be reduced by around one tenth. 

“As we are surrounded by families today, my heart goes out to the most vulnerable who will suffer for many years to come from our failure to act on air pollution.”

RJ Frometa
Author: RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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