New research suggests that COVID-19 lockdowns led to 95,000 fewer air pollution-related deaths globally. Business closures and stay-at-home orders were the main drivers behind up to a 50% reduction in airborne concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, a direct emission from vehicles and coal-powered electricity plants.
The greatest reduction in microscopic particulate matter released into the air was realized in Asia, and the effects of reduced economic activity on air quality were negligible in Europe and the United States.
“Although the COVID-19 related lockdowns brought significant reductions in economic activities, air pollution levels did not decrease as much as had been speculated at first. Primary pollution [from] nitrogen dioxide had the largest decreases and associated health benefits, but, with the notable exception of China, secondary air pollution [from] fine particles and ozone did not bring significant health benefits,” said study co-author Guillaume Chossiere. Chossiere is a researcher in the Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
Experts continue to recommend the consistent implementation of stricter air pollution reduction policies as a way to reduce mass death from air pollution, and the reduction of climate change as a whole.
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