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Pigeons in London Cry Fowl Over Air Pollution

Pigeon Air Patrol Pigeon Air Patrol (Photo: Pigeon Patrol)
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A small flock of racing pigeons, dubbed the Pigeon Air Patrol, took to the skies Monday as part of an initiative to bring attention to London's air pollution problem.

The birds were strapped with small backpacks (described as being "light as a feather") that contained a GPS tracker and a sensor that monitors levels of nitrogen dioxide and ozone gases.

“There’s something about taking what is seen as a flying rat and reversing that into something quite positive,” Pierre Duquesnoy, creative director at marketing agency DigitasLBI, told the Guardian. “Most of the time when we talk about pollution people think about Beijing or other places, but there are some days in the year when pollution was higher and more toxic in London than Beijing, that’s the reality.”

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Duquenoy, who won a London Design Festival award for his idea, was inspired by how pigeons delivered information during the world wars and how easily they can avoid London's often-congested traffic while monitoring the air.

Related: Carbon Dioxide Pollution Hits an All-Time High

The information gathered from the sensors was tweeted out for others to follow. The readings fluctuated between moderate and high pollution levels.

People who live in London could ask the pigeons about their neighborhood's current air pollution levels.

After the pigeon patrol hangs up its backpacks, the project will recruit 100 human volunteers to beta-test wearable pollution monitors.

Take a peek at the pigeons' flight patterns via this interactive map.

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