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Banksy's Latest Mural Is a Haunting Take on Air Pollution

The latest piece of artwork by underground guerrilla artist Banksy on Dec. 20 in Port Talbot, Wales. Matt Cardy / Getty Images

Secretive graffiti artist Banksy has created another thought-provoking piece of art.

His latest pop-up went on a concrete block garage in Port Talbot, Wales that appears to show a child catching snowflakes with their mouth. But once you look around the corner, you realize that the child's mouth is open to ash emanating from a dumpster fire.


The British guerrilla artist confirmed on his verified Instagram this week that the artwork was his. The haunting video post, accompanied by a children's Christmas song, first displays the mural itself. It then zooms out to reveal a grey industrial landscape and the Port Talbot steelworks plant looming in the background.

The caption along with the post reads, "Season's greetings."

Port Talbot resident and former steelworker Gary Owen, 55, claimed to Wales Online that Banksy's piece was in response to an Instagram message he sent. Owen said he asked Banksy to create art that would highlight Port Talbot's dust problem.

"Can you do some art in Port Talbot, the steelworks is making lots of dust every day and the locals are sick of it," Owen texted the artist in August.

Although his text never received a reply, Owen does not think it's a coincidence that the display popped up in his town four months later.

Owen also claimed to the publication that he believes the area's children are facing health risks by playing in dust coming from the steel plant.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed Port Talbot as the most polluted place in the UK. However, in May, the WHO revised the list and issued corrected figures, according to the BBC. Port Talbot is still identified as one of 17 areas in the UK that has met the fine-particle air pollution limit of 10 micrograms per cubic meter set by the WHO.

Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution as they have faster respiratory rates than adults, so they breathe in more pollutants. Around 93 percent of the world's children under the age of 15 years (1.8 billion children) breathe toxic air every day, according to the WHO, which also estimated that in 2016, 600,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air.

Banksy's art has featured environmental messages before. For instance, this 2010 piece in the ruins of Detroit's Packard Automotive Plant shows a child with a can of red paint and the words, "I remember when all this was trees."

In 2009, the street artist spray-painted the words "I DON'T BELIEVE IN GLOBAL WARMING" on a wall beside a canal in London. His message came after the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen that was widely considered a failure for not producing a binding agreement to tackle climate change, The Guardian reported then.

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