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City reports big drops in NO2 since lockdown

Air quality in Leicester has ‘improved dramatically’ since the nationwide coronavirus lockdown began, according to Leicester City Council.

Air quality monitoring stations throughout the city have recorded big reductions in pollution levels since the government’s coronavirus lockdown came into effect on March 23, with levels down to around half compared to previous months.

Figures comparing the same weeks in March 2019 and March 2020 show how nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels began to fall from the third week of the month, when more people began working from home, and fell further during the last week of March 2020 when the full lockdown began, with schools, offices and many other businesses closing.

At Vaughan Way – one of the city’s busiest roads and an air quality hotspot – NO2 levels in the third week of March fell to 34 µg/m3, compared to 62 µg/m3 during the same week in 2019.

By the end of March, after the first full week of the lockdown – levels had fallen to 24µg/m3 – less than half of the 58µg/m3 recorded during the same week the year before.

In the first week of April, NO2 levels fell further to 22µg/m3, the lowest level ever recorded at Vaughan Way. 

Leicester deputy city mayor for the environment, Cllr Adam Clarke, said: ‘Obviously this improvement in air quality is really good news for everyone living in Leicester, and is a welcome ray of sunshine in what is otherwise a worrying global pandemic.

‘I’d like to thank people for heeding the safety message to stay home and not to make unnecessary journeys.

‘Having cleaner, fresher air to breathe in the city couldn’t come at a more important time, as we are faced with the risk of potentially severe respiratory illness caused by coronavirus.

‘The improvement in air quality can only serve to help people with existing health problems, such as asthmatics and other ongoing respiratory issues. And those of us who can get outdoors to take exercise within the government’s guidelines, the air quality is noticeably better.

‘Obviously we don’t expect pollution levels to remain this low once the lockdown is eased and life eventually returns to normal – but the improvements to air quality do offer a tantalising glimpse of how things could be if we all thought a bit more carefully about whether or not our daily car journeys are essential, and if more people used cleaner, healthier forms of transport such as cycling and walking more often.’

Air Quality News analysed Department for Energy, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) monitoring data for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in London, Leeds, Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Bristol and Newcastle, comparing the first day of lockdown (March 24) with the same day last year (March 26).

Edinburgh saw the largest drop in concentrations from a daily average of  74µg/m3 im 2019, to 28µg/m3, as regular commuters worked from home and only essential workers were permitted to travel into the Scottish capital to do their job.

London Westminster also saw a massive decrease in NO2 emissions, from 58µg/m3 in 2019 to 30µg/m3.

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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