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Season’s greetings, the Banksy mural in Port Talbot transforms snowflakes into air pollution

Snowflakes can be deceiving. Banksy transformed them from a marker of winter festivities into a symbol of the plague of air pollution in his mural Season’s greetings in Port Talbot, Wales.

A child apparently enjoys eating snowflakes. But turning the corner, we find out it’s actually ash from a dumpster fire that they’re catching on their tongue. Anonymous guerrilla street artist Banksy strikes again. This time dealing with an environmental issue that affects billions of people around the world, that of air pollution, which according to the United Nations’ World Health Organisation (WHO) causes at least 7 million premature deaths very year. His latest mural appeared in the town of Port Talbot in Wales, home to one of the largest steelworks plants in Europe, owned by Indian multinational Tata.

 

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Banksy’s snowflake mural in Port Talbot

Season’s greetings,” is the artist’s minimalist caption to the Instagram post published on 19 December that confirms the mural’s authenticity, which has become the name of the piece painted on a garage in a residential street. His decision to highlight the problem of dust pollution in the Welsh town came in response to a message he received by a local man and ex-steel plant worker, Gary Owen, Wales Online reports. Owen, sensitive to the effects of such pollution on children – a problem that affects over 90 per cent of under 18 year-olds worldwide according to the WHO – claims to have messaged Banksy in August asking him to highlight the issue. He was delighted to see that the artist responded positively to his request by creating the mural, which has attracted thousands of visitors. It is now protected by a plastic screen and barrier, which didn’t stop a vandal from attacking it, though thankfully damage was avoided thanks to the volunteers on guard protecting it.

Season's greetings port talbot wales mural banksy
Season’s greetings. New artwork by Banksy in Port Talbot, Wales shows a child apparently catching snowflakes on his tongue, but eating air pollution instead © Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Air quality in Port Talbot, Wales

Low air quality in Port Talbot was confirmed by a WHO report published in May this year, which shows that it is among 17 areas in the United Kingdom in which fine-particle air pollution levels are at the limit set by the international organisation of 10 microgrammes per cubic metre. “Fine particulate matter has the greatest effect on human health,” according to the UN agency, because it penetrates deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory infections.

 

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In addition, this summer residents complained that black dust released from the steelworks was so abundant that it was visibly depositing on surfaces – a considerable risk for small children, who play on the ground. This prompted the government agency that manages natural resources in the country, Natural Resources Wales, to judge “the frequency and amount of pollution” as “unacceptable”. In view of the merger between Tata and metals giant ThyssenKrupp to create a new pan-European steel manufacturer that will own the Port Talbot plant, the issue of air pollution in the industrial area will be kept in check by residents, potentially galvanised by such a unique Christmas gift: the power of thought-provoking media-magnet Banksy’s stencil and spray can.

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