'Green' LGBTQ mural created with 'pollution-eating' paint unveiled in Rome

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By Mark Armstrong  with AP
A mural in Rome that it's claimed eats pollution
A mural in Rome that it's claimed eats pollution   -  Copyright  AP Photo

Is there such a thing as a mural that sends out a strong social message but is also good for the environment? A new mural in Rome paying homage to the LGBTQ community is doing just that - and helping to reduce air pollution.

A giant-sized painting on a gable end in the Italian capital depicts a woman standing in front of a mirror seeing her reflection as a man.

It's based on a series of interviews the Dutch artist JDL (Judith de Leeuw) held with members of the LGBTQ community.

"It's about the feeling of acceptance that they go through," explained JDL. "A lot of time they feel misunderstood, a lot of people don't understand their emotions and they are going through great emotional suffering through the period that they have to accept who they are."

But there is more to the mural than meets the eye.

An organisation that part-funded the work says the Italian paint used is called "Airlite" and contains special compounds that absorb and eliminate atmospheric pollution via a chemical reaction, similar to photosynthesis in plants.

"The moment light hits the surface, in that moment this technology is capable of absorbing and neutralising the pollutants," claims Veronica De Angelis, real estate entrepreneur and founder of Yourban2030 that partially funded the project. "They become basically very small particles that dissolve."

They say this mural is could absorb the pollution generated by 52 cars every day.

Yourban2030 commissioned its mural using Airlite paint two years ago when Milanese street artist Federico Massa (aka Iena Cruz) unveiled her work 'Hunting Pollution,' which spanned 1,000-square-metres, on the side of seven-story building in the capital.

A study in 2007 in Rome's Umberto tunnel found that after it was painted with a similar photocatalytic paint, Nitrogen Oxide levels were reduced by over 50 percent.

However, other scientists have suggested that photocatalytic paints make little difference to exterior air quality and more large-scale studies are needed.