Smog-eating mineral added to buildings and roads in Europe, Japan

Why do buildings just stand there when they could make themselves useful? Some companies have a solution: coating buildings and roads in Europe and Japan with a “smog-eating” mineral, titanium dioxide, that cleans surfaces and nearby air. The coating can reduce some pollutants by 20 to 70 percent, according to one company in Italy. It’s a miracle! The smog just disappears! Right? Here’s how Roy Colvile, a London air-quality consultant, explains it: “The titanium dioxide allows the pollutants in the air to react with the oxygen in the air and converts it to a form which then falls onto the ground and is washed away by the rain.” Oh, washed away. Hmm. Well, hopeful greens still offer a cautious thumbs-up. “Philosophically, it is better never to form pollutants than to find ways to destroy pollutants,” says environmental chemist Howard Liljestrand of the University of Texas at Austin, “but this is a useful technique for air pollutants that humans already make.”