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A Glue That Sniffs up Pollution!

23 January 2012 5,489 views One Comment


I feel quite strongly that pollution is an evil and nefarious menace; it kills plants and animals, probably causes cancer, and coats everything on your street-facing balcony with a layer of dark brown powdery sludge that means you have to toss heavy buckets of water over your white metal patio furniture anytime you have guests over. I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.

1952 | London Smog – Image courtesy ptkeepcalmcarryon.blogspot.com

Anyway – as I mentioned, I am deeply opposed to pollution in many of its forms, and I’m thinking of founding a formal opposition group to host regular meetings following strict Parliamentary procedure. The formal opposition group will commit ourselves as a first order of business to obtaining some newfangled “pollution glue” aka “dust suppressant” that the city of London is planning to spray on “15 separate stretches of road in areas with especially bad air quality” in order to trap pollutants (Price). If left unchecked, these polluting particles will get sucked into the lungs of  innocent bystanders in the widespread and perfectly understandable habit of breathing. This must be stopped.

The pollution glue is a non-toxic, biodegradable, saline solution with calcium magnesium acetate. Converted winter service trucks will spray it on the streets of London at night like so many machine-like dogs marking so many road-like fire hydrants. The glue will have to be reapplied frequently since rain has a tendency to wash the solution away into drains and traffic wears it off the surface of the street.

Image courtesy nj.gov

The dust suppressant can’t trap carbon monoxide or other gas-based pollutants, but it will make it easier to breathe the air around central London: preliminary tests showed a 10-14% reduction in particulate matter with a diameter of 10 micrometers or smaller (Price). The city is in a rush to improve urban air quality because London faces steep fines for violating PM-10 limits set by the European Union.

When I heard about pollution glue, I was all excited because it seems brilliant and tidy to trap nasty particles before we inhale them. Not only that, I thought, the glue is non-toxic so it won’t harm the environment. But then I realized that anything that traps industrial particulates (even if the material itself is not made of nasty chemicals) will essentially become extremely toxic as it rounds up pollutants – and so instead of breathing in evil dust, Londoners may simply be allowing it to run into their watershed in a more concentrated form.

And perhaps more fundamentally, the glue does nothing to discourage industry from emitting the particulates in the first place. What do you think?


I’m filing pollution glue under Fire because fire makes smoke and particles and I sense that pollution glue would be fond of it.


Price, Andrew. “A ‘Pollution Glue’ Gets Sticky with Pollution, Improves Air Quality.” fastcoexist.com 01/11/12. Accessed 1/12/12. URL.

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One Comment »

  • goedjn said:

    It’s not obvious why spraying a water soluble “glue” is
    a better idea than setting up big filters and blowing air
    through them, but I wouldn’t worry to much about the effect
    of either on industrial polluters. First, they don’t, as a group,
    pay attention to pollution levels, but rather to pollution laws,
    and second. because the particular pollution here is most likely
    to be non-point source, like badly tuned vehicles.

    Where does the stuff go, once it’s washed into a drain?
    a treatment plant, or the nearest river?

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