New Clothing Line Can Detect Pollution (VIDEOS)

Here’s an assignment for the real world.  Nien Lam and Sue Ngo, graduate students in NYU’s interactive telecommunications program, created a shirt that changes colors when it detects unhealthy amounts of carbon monoxide and pollution.  The project, “Warning Signs,” is part of their graduate coursework. 

Like the 90s Hypercolor clothing line that changed color with heat, these shirts, one designed with a human heart and the other embellished with a pair of lungs, have blue veins that glow and “subtly change color and pattern to indicate higher levels of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere to the wearer and those around him or her,” Lam explained on his blog.

Lam, 32, and Ngo, 27, said they got the idea last September when they saw a car accessory designed to raise driver awareness of tailpipe emissions called “Puff” at the World Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science.

“For the design itself, I drew inspiration from a local New York City artist, Dacops,” Ngo said.

“When people step out to have a cigarette, they would see our project, and then feel guilty going out to have that cigarette realizing, ‘Oh, this is actually what I’m doing to myself,’” Lam told WNYC.

“Air pollution is kind of one of those things that’s all around us,” Lam said.  “You don’t see it but it exists and it’s invisible and we wanted to bring that to light.  ‘Warning Signs’ is a visualization of the pollution that exists invisibly all around us.”

What next for these two designers?  “Another project we’re thinking of is using alcohol sensors to sense the level of alcohol you’re consuming,” Ngo said.  “The liver would be changing color.”

Both Lam and Ngo are scheduled to graduate in May and are looking into mass-producing the shirts.  They have not yet figured out its price.

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Photo courtesy of Hobvias Sudoneighm via Flickr


Isabel Ramirez
Isabel Ramirez7 years ago

Amazing concept! I hope to get a shirt!

Rose N.
Past Member 7 years ago

Thank you for posting.

Manuela B.
Manuela B7 years ago

We don't need more t-shirts to tell us what we already know. More needless use of our precious resources....

Alicia Torres
Alicia T7 years ago

Great idea!!

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago


Karen Walsh
Karen W7 years ago

what a great idea. the design idea could be expanded I think, to make it more appealing. maybe a picture of the world on it would be a good one, or even the universe.

Jassmine F.
Jassmine F7 years ago

I love this idea! But like, Susan T, I would want to know what the product is made out of. Having a shirt that can detect pollution isn't worth it if the production of it just adds to the pollution.

Krasimira B.
Krasimira B7 years ago

Great idea! Bravo!

michael c.
corbin m7 years ago

AWESOME!!! Less places for conservatives and their lies to hide. AWESOME!!!

Kay L.
KayL NOFORWARDS7 years ago

I live downtown in a big city. I'm not sure I want to be reminded of what my lungs and heart are being subjected to when I'm forced to go outdooors....