Article on 'pollution glue' does not illuminate science.

Posted by Audrey Moores at Dec 01, 2011 07:00 AM |

A BBC News article describes a recent debate among Londoners over a novel depollution method adopted by Mayor Johnson. It consists of spraying a calcium-based glue every night on the roads of the most polluted London streets. This method is supposed to sequester soot particles from car exhaust, tires and brakes. Johnson claims it would reduce particulate pollution in hot spots by 14 percent in an effort to avoid European Union environmental fines. His opposition denounces it as costly.

While quoting many voices of the local political scene, the article completely lacked scientific analysis of the technology. A scientist is quoted in the article but offers only opinions, not facts or measurements. As a result, the efficiency of this technology is not independently accounted for.

Several other questions were not addressed either: Does this sprayed glue cause pollution itself? What is the fate of the sequestered soot? Is it safe for London workers spraying the glue every night?

Many depollution systems exist that rely on paints, coatings or other materials that can degrade pollutants, and their efficacy has been scientifically demonstrated. For instance, titanium-based systems applied to concrete and other surfaces are very powerful and effective at decomposing organic pollutants.

The technology presented here may be very efficient. However, reporter Robyn Crystal should have made an effort to better cover that aspect. Journalists can take advantage of political debates by instilling scientific evidence relevant to the issues debated.

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