Research ArticleCORONAVIRUS

Air pollution impacts of COVID-19–related containment measures

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Science Advances  21 May 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 21, eabe1178
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe1178


Responses to the COVID-19 outbreak resulted in one of the largest short-term decreases in anthropogenic emissions in modern history. To date, there has been no comprehensive assessment of the impact of lockdowns on air quality and human health. Using global satellite observations and ground measurements from 36 countries in Europe, North America, and East Asia, we find that lockdowns led to reductions in NO2 concentrations globally, resulting in ~32,000 avoided premature mortalities, including ~21,000 in China. However, we do not find corresponding reductions in PM2.5 and ozone globally. Using satellite measurements, we show that the disconnect between NO2 and ozone changes stems from local chemical regimes. The COVID-related lockdowns demonstrate the need for targeted air quality policies to reduce the global burden of air pollution, especially related to secondary pollutants.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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