Luke Jerram’s Inhale in We The Curious

Inhale by artist Luke Jerram  highlights Bristol’s air pollution problem. It represents a diesel soot particle, known as size PM2.5, which is found in the air that we breathe. The sculpture is 3 million times larger than the actual particle.

How does it affect me?

Around 300 deaths each year in Bristol can be linked to air pollution. We breathe in gases and tiny particles that can harm us. The smaller the particle, the further into the lung it can reach, and some are small enough to enter the bloodstream. Breathing in air pollution can lead to health conditions like heart and lung disease, cancer and respiratory problems. Air pollution is linked to more premature births and lower birth weights of babies. Tiny particles breathed in from polluted air have even been found inside the brain and this might be a contributor to dementia.

How a diesel soot particle enters the body

What’s happening in Bristol?

Diesel vehicles on our roads produce soot particles.  These emissions can affect people both inside and outside of vehicles -  concentrations of pollutants in the vehicle can be even higher than on the street outside. Bristol’s air pollution levels exceed European Union limits in central areas and along main roads. This is due to the city’s infrastructure and high levels of traffic

Another contributing factor to air pollution in Bristol comes from fires and wood burners. Bristol has seen a recent increase in the installation of domestic wood burners, which produce high emissions of PM2.5. A wood burning stove emits up to ten times as much particulate matter as a modern lorry. This impacts the health of people in the house as well as those living around them.

The detail of the sculpture shows the chemicals that make up a diesel soot particle, mostly black carbon from vehicle engines along with metal from brake pads and silicate from the road

What can we do to help?

Travel better

·         Try to make fewer journeys by car

·         Walk, ride your bike or use public transport

·         Car share

·         Avoid travelling in your car at busy times

·         Consider buying an electric or hybrid car or choose one with lower fuel emissions

Burn less

·         Avoid using fires and wood burners

·         If you do need to have a fire, try burning less fuel

·         Helpful information on using wood burners can be found here

Talk about it

·         Join in and share the growing conversation about air quality

·         Speak to your family, friends and colleagues about air pollution and explore how we can fix this problem together

·         See if your school or workplace has schemes to reduce vehicle travel

·         Find out about plans to improve air quality in your area and engage with politicians locally and nationally


Some great sources of information on air quality are:

Clean Air for Bristol:

Bristol’s air quality dashboard and interactive map:

The ClairCity Project:

The World Health Organisation:


Inhale was commissioned by the University of the West of England Bristol's Our City, Our Health project with funding from Wellcome Trust. Big thanks to the Air Quality Management Resource Centre at UWE Bristol for all of their fantastic data too!