COVID Lockdowns’ Boost to Air Quality Limited

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 13, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Two types of air pollution declined in cities around the world during the first lockdowns of COVID-19, but one type increased, according to a new study.

Researchers assessed changes in nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution levels during lockdowns in 11 cities: Beijing and Wuhan in China; Milan; Rome; Madrid; London; Paris; Berlin; New York; Los Angeles; and Delhi, India.

After accounting for weather effects, the researchers found that the reductions in nitrogen dioxide were smaller than expected, while the ozone concentrations increased.

Nitrogen dioxide is a major air pollutant from vehicle emissions and is associated with respiratory problems. Ozone is also harmful to health and damages crops, the study authors noted.

Additionally, the researchers found that PM2.5 concentrations dropped during lockdowns in all cities except London and Paris. PM2.5 can worsen health problems such as asthma and heart disease.

The results were published on January 13 in the journal Scientific advances.

Lead author Zongbo Shi, professor of atmospheric biogeochemistry at the University of Birmingham in the UK, said the rapid reduction in economic activity provided a unique opportunity to study the impact of interventions on the quality of the environment. ‘air.

“Emissions changes associated with early lockdown restrictions led to abrupt changes in air pollutant levels, but their impacts on air quality were more complex than we thought and smaller than expected,” he said. he said in a university press release.

Shi noted that changes in weather can mask changes in air quality emissions.

“Importantly, our study provided a new framework for evaluating air pollution interventions, separating the effects of weather and season from the effects of changes in emissions,” he explained.

Study co-author Roy Harrison, professor of environmental health, said that “the reduction [nitrogen dioxide] will benefit public health – restrictions on activities, especially traffic, resulted in an immediate decline [nitrogen dioxide] in all cities. ”

Harrison noted that if similar restrictions had remained in place, the average annual nitrogen dioxide levels in most of the localities studied would have been in line with World Health Organization guidelines for air quality.

More information

The World Health Organization has more on air pollution and health.

SOURCE: University of Birmingham, press release, January 13, 2021

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