Air pollution down in major cities amid coronavirus lockdowns

Air pollution down in major cities amid coronavirus lockdowns

A harmful air pollutant dropped as much as 60 percent in some parts of the globe as cities have implemented strict lockdown orders due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A report released Monday by IQ Air, an air quality tracking firm, found that levels of soot dipped significantly as industrial operations and transportation slowed due to stay-at-home orders.

“The dramatic changes brought about by these restrictions have been described as the ‘largest scale experiment ever’ into air quality,” the report said. “In many places, the halt of movement and industry has shown a glimpse of a cleaner world."

ADVERTISEMENT

The report reviewed three-week periods in 10 major cities, relying on data gathered during either the strictest lockdowns or when the highest levels of coronavirus cases were reported. 

All saw a decline in levels of fine particulate matter PM2.5, a pollutant known to exacerbate heart and lung disease, but the effect was most severe in Delhi, India.

In the U.S., PM2.5 levels dropped 25 percent in New York and 31 percent in Los Angeles. 

But those declines, and their overall benefit to the planet, are likely to be short lived.

Experts say while the reprieve helps ease the bioaccumulation of harmful pollutants, levels will spike again once countries return to business as usual.

“Are we talking about a short-term decline in emissions? Absolutely. It's not clear to me yet the epidemic will transform our economy to be more energy efficient or change human behavior,” Rob Jackson, an environmental scientist at Stanford University and chairman of the Global Carbon Project, previously told The Hill.