Air pollution decreases as lockdowns take effect | Daily News


Air pollution decreases as lockdowns take effect

Air becomes cleaner over China
Air becomes cleaner over China

Air pollution has significantly decreased over China amid the economic slowdown caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, signaling unanticipated implications for human health.

“Given the huge amount of evidence that breathing dirty air contributes heavily to premature mortality, a natural — if admittedly strange — question is whether the lives saved from this reduction in pollution caused by economic disruption from Covid-19 exceeds the death toll from the virus itself,” Stanford University environmental resource economist Marshall Burke wrote in the global food, environment and economic dynamics blog, G-FEED.

“Even under very conservative assumptions, I think the answer is a clear ‘yes,’” he added. Following China’s actions to control the spread of the virus via mandatory quarantine, NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) pollution monitoring satellites detected a reduction of nitrogen dioxide (NO2)—a gas emitted when fossil fuels such as oil, gas or coal are burned—over China.

Other analyses have reported a reduction of ground-based concentrations of fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, also a harmful pollutant.

Using this data, as well as estimates of the economic disruption caused by Covid-19, Burke ran some back-of-the-envelope calculations on the potential number of lives that could be saved by this drop in air pollution. The two-month pollution drop, Burke estimates, has saved the lives of 4,000 children under the age of 5 and 73,000 adults over the age of 70 in China — significantly more than the global death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic at the time of calculation.



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