Defra seeking expertise on air pollution and coronavirus links

The Air Quality Expert Group, acting on a request from Defra, is calling for evidence from the research and air quality communities to address the ongoing changes in UK air quality due to the coronavirus crisis.

They have asked a series of key questions that they hope will explore the interactions between air pollution and the virus, with the evidence hopefully supporting decision-making on air quality management in the coming weeks and months.

They are looking for evidence from any relevant experts working the field of air pollution science, technology or management.

These might be based on existing measurements (such as AURN, local authority and research data, earth observation, activity information, or emissions reporting), atmospheric modelling or theoretical analysis, as well as scenario modelling and sensitivity analysis.

The questions asked are below.

  • What sectors or areas of socioeconomic activity do you anticipate will show a decrease in air pollution emissions, and by how much? Are there any emissions sources or sectors which might be anticipated to lead to an increase in emissions in the next three months?
  • Can you provide estimates for how emissions and ambient concentrations of NOx, NO2, PM, O3, VOC, NH3 etc may have changed since the COVID outbreak? Where possible please provide data sets to support your response.
  • What changes do you anticipate in indoor air quality as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?
  • How might public exposure to air pollution have changed as a consequence of recent restrictions on movement?
  • How might altered emissions of air pollutants over the next three months affect UK summertime air quality?
  • Based on what is already known about air pollutants as respiratory irritants or inflammatory agents, can any insights be gained into the impact of air quality on viral infection?
  • Are there any insights that can be gained from aerosol science on possible viral transmission mechanisms?

John Newington, head of evidence, air quality and industrial emissions, Defra said: ‘Defra would ask the research community to support the UK government in its efforts to manage air pollution risk and impacts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Evidence and insight into possible changes to the factors that control air pollution will help us to refine and improve how we deliver the best possible air quality for the UK. ‘

If you would like to discuss a potential contribution in advance then please contact the Chair of the AQEG, Prof. Alastair Lewis ( 

Short summary inputs can be sent to AQEG ( by 30th April 2020. 

Photo Credit – Pixabay


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