Air Pollution Decreased as Industrial Activity Stopped Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Because of the novel coronavirus outbreak we’re currently facing, industrial activity has been shut down, which momentarily cuts air pollution levels all over the world.

Satellite images published by the European Space Agency (ESA) depict the before and after state of air pollution in certain parts of the world. One specialist said that the abrupt shift showcased the ‘largest-scale experiment ever,’ when it comes to decreasing of industrial emissions.

Readings from ESA’s Sentinel-5P satellite depicts that throughout the last six weeks, levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) above cities and industrial regions in Asia and Europe were outstandingly lower than in the same period of last year.

Nitrogen dioxide is generated by car engines, power plants, and other industrial operations and is believed to worsen respiratory conditions such as asthma.

The before and after state of air pollution in China. [Image: European Space Agency]
Paul Monks, professor of air pollution at the University of Leicester, said that these are important lessons to learn.

“We are now, inadvertently, conducting the largest-scale experiment ever seen,” he said. “Are we looking at what we might see in the future if we can move to a low-carbon economy? Not to denigrate the loss of life, but this might give us some hope from something terrible. To see what can be achieved.”

Monks is the former chair of the U.K. government science advisory committee on air quality and said that a decrease in air pollution could end up bringing some health benefits, but they are not likely to compensate for the loss of life due to the pandemic.

“It seems entirely probable that a reduction in air pollution will be beneficial to people in susceptible categories, for example, some asthma sufferers,” he said. “It could reduce the spread of disease. A high level of air pollution exacerbates viral uptake because it inflames and lowers immunity.” 

Agriculture could also see an improvement because pollution halts plant growth. Pollution particles in NO2 could worsen existing health issues. The World Health Organization (WHO) is now allegedly analyzing whether air-related pollution may be an element that makes COVID-19 more deadly.​

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