Strict COVID-19 lockdown policies such as workplace closures in European cities reduced levels of air pollution and the number of associated deaths, according to new estimates published in Nature’s Scientific Reports.
The research, which was funded by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) on behalf of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), was led by a team of statistical health and earth observation satellite modellers based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), with colleagues from CAMS.
The study compared government policies from 47 European cities from February to July 2020 and estimated the changes in pollution levels and related number of deaths avoided during the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic.
Government measures for COVID-19 such as school and workplace closure, cancelling public events, and stay-at-home requirements had the strongest effect on reducing NO2 levels. This is linked to the reduction in road transport and local mobility which is known to be a contributor to NO2 air pollution. Spanish, French and Italian cities had the largest decrease in NO2 of between 50% and 60% during the period.
Although strong decreases in NO2 were observed, levels of fine particulate matter PM2.5 and PM10 were reduced more modestly since they are also produced by natural sources (wildfires and dust), and other emission sources like residential activities, that were slightly increased during lockdown.
“The lockdown during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic created immense health and social costs, however, it has offered unique conditions to investigate potential effects of strict policies to reduce pollution levels in urban areas. This ‘natural experiment’ has given us a glimpse of how air quality can be improved by drastic public health measures that would be difficult to implement in normal times. The information can be important to design effective policies to tackle the problem of pollution in our cities.” – Antonio Gasparrini, Study Senior Author and Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
CAMS provided the surface-level data for this research using an ensemble of regional air quality models. This allowed the team to compare the concentrations of the main air pollutants with two emissions scenarios, one corresponding to business-as-usual conditions and the other corresponding to a detailed estimate of emissions resulting from the actual governmental measures taken during the first lockdown, varying for each country, each day and for each of the main activity sectors (road traffic, industry etc.).
Based on the estimates for NO2, there were 485.5 (confidence interval of 590.9; 377.6) excess deaths avoided associated with the exposure change (lockdown – business-as-usual difference), compared to 2,572.9 (confidence interval of 2,042.3; 3,070.9) excess deaths estimated under a business-as-usual scenario.
Across all pollutants, a total of more than 800 deaths were avoided with improved air quality resulting from the governmental measures taken to limit the spread of the SARS-Cov-2 virus. Paris, London, Barcelona, and Milan were among the top six cities with the highest number of avoided deaths.
Although all cities experienced a slight increase in air pollution levels after the strong decline in March and April 2020, levels remained below business-as-usual scenario estimates throughout the period studied. Restrictions on internal and international travel showed a minor impact on the local pollution levels.
Rochelle Schneider, Honorary Assistant Professor in Geospatial Data Science at LSHTM, Visiting Scientist at ECMWF, and first author of the study said: “Connecting expertise rapidly after and during the COVID-19 pandemic began has allowed us to estimate the health benefits from specific government measures. This, and other similar studies, can help drive the message that we definitely need to improve urban air quality for human health, and for the environment.”
“Government policies decided during the spring and early summer of 2020 gave us a unique opportunity to study a “real-life” scenario with lower air pollution levels. This paper conveyed strong messages on the potential of replicable, scalable, and collaborative research conducted with complementary expertise and knowledge from public health and tropical medicine universities, Copernicus, and meteorological institutes.”
Vincent-Henri Peuch, Director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), said: “This research benefits from a unique dataset provided by CAMS, which allows to compare as realistically and accurately as possible European air quality as it was experienced as a result of the COVID-19 measures and what would have happened under normal conditions. This overcomes many limitations of other studies, which compared for instance different years or different periods. The CAMS multi-model ensemble that has been used to generate this dataset has capabilities that have no equivalent in the world.” Vincent-Henri Peuch added: “The findings are extremely significant as they consolidate the quantitative evidence that the COVID-related government measures had a direct effect on air pollution levels areas across Europe, particularly for NO2. Beyond the analysis of the mortality during the first months of the pandemic, this study could help shape future policy as the public health benefits of reducing pollution in our cities and the effectiveness of certain measures are clear to see”.
The authors acknowledge limitations of the study, including the use of country’s overall response rather than city-specific COVID-19 interventions.
The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) is implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) on behalf of the European Commission with funding from the European Union.
Source: London School of Hygiene & Tropical MedicineStrict COVID-19 lockdown policies helped reduce air pollution levels and death rates in Europe
Pollution Masks since 1993 - The 'Original' and still the best - Made in the UK
THE AIR WE BREATHE
The Respro® Bulletin Board is designed to keep you up to date with current views and issues relating to Air Pollution and its health implications in our daily lives.
WATCH OUR ANIMATION
TOP POSTS AND PAGES
- Follow Respro® Bulletin Board on WordPress.com
LOCAL AIR QUALITY
WHY WEAR A MASK?
Essential features required of a mask to work properly: Why wear a mask?
KEY POINTS TO A MASK
Three important points to look out for in an air pollution mask:
Key Points to a Mask
TIME TO CHANGE YOUR FILTER?
THERE ARE FOUR RESPRO® FILTER TYPES
HOW TO CHANGE THE FILTER
BUY NEW FILTERS
RESPRO® ON INSTAGRAM
Air Pollution Air Quality Asthma Beijing Boris Johnson California Canada China Delhi Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) diesel exhaust fumes EU - European Union Europe forest fire France Germany HAZE Health Effects of Air Pollution India Indonesia Iran King's College London London London Mayor Malaysia Nitrogen Dioxide NO2 NOx Ozone O3 Paris PM - Particulate Matter PM2.5 PM10 Research Respro® Masks FAQ Respro® Products Scotland Singapore Smog Spain Sulfur Dioxide SO2 UK USA vehicle emissions wildfires World Heath Organization (WHO)
- Air Quality
- Australia & Oceania
- Exercise & Air Pollution
- Health Effects of Air Pollution
- Help & FAQs
- Latin America
- Medical Studies
- Middle East
- Research on Air Pollution in the UK
- Respro® How To Videos
- Respro® Mask Reviews
- Respro® Masks
- Respro® Products
- South Korea
- USA & Canada
- World News