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UK cities see big fall in air pollution with life under lockdown

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

Assessment of data from roadside monitoring sites in York, Birmingham, Glasgow, London and Manchester has revealed reductions in key pollutants nitrogen dioxide and tiny particles known as “PM2.5”.

The analysis by scientists from the University of York of data from the London Air Quality Network and UK Automatic Urban and Rural Network showed the pollutants had fallen to levels lower than the average of the past five years.

Monitoring of European cities, many of which are in lockdown over the pandemic,  by the European Environment Agency (EEA) also reveals large decreases in air pollution, particularly nitrogen dioxide.

The reduction in nitrogen dioxide in UK and European cities is likely to be caused by lower levels of traffic, experts said.

Sources of PM2.5 include road transport, industry and fuel burning.

Professor James Lee from the Department of Chemistry at York and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) said: “These are the two air pollutants that have the biggest health impacts on people.

“From our analysis, pollution levels are clearly lower than the average of the previous five years.

“I would expect them to drop even further over the coming weeks.

“We will continue to analyse the data and potentially take in more sites to build a bigger, more accurate picture of the situation.”


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