Lockdown may have resulted in 800 fewer air pollution deaths

More than 800 deaths may have been avoided due to better air quality during lockdown, according to new data from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (CAMS). 

By comparing exposure to air pollution between February and July of 2020 across 47 major cities, scientists concluded that government measures to limit the spread of the virus also protected people from air pollution. 

The strongest impact was on nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels. 

The study said cities in France, Spain, and Italy saw NO2 levels fall between 50% and 60% during the period. The intensity and timing of the reduction in air pollution were studied along with the impact on short-term mortality.

people walking on city during daytime

The researchers found that Paris, London, Barcelona, and Milan were among those that avoided the most deaths due to government curbs.

CAMS director Vincent-Henri Peuch said: The effectiveness of certain measures are clear to see.’ 

Professor Antonio Gasparrini from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), which collaborated on the research, added the information could be used to design better policies to tackle air pollution.

‘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.’


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