Researchers have secured funding to investigate the impact that lockdown has had on air pollution in Oxford.
A recent report commissioned by Oxford City Council revealed that the transport sector accounts for 68% of all nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions in the city.
During the lockdown period, traffic levels declined by up to 60% which has led to a significant decrease in NO2 concentrations.
Thanks to over £200,000 worth of funding from the Natural Environment Research, researchers from the Universities of Birmingham and Oxford will work in partnership with Oxford councils to extend the existing air quality sensor network across the city.
The researchers will then use data obtained from before, during and after the lockdown to better understand the impact that the lockdown has had on air pollution.
This data, alongside traffic information, will be used to better understand the contribution of traffic to overall pollution and to identify the distribution of localised pollution hotspots.
The researchers will present their findings to the council to help to inform the new Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) which is due to be published later this year.
Principal investigator Dr Suzanne Bartington from the Institute of Applied Health Research at the University of Birmingham said: ‘Poor air quality is the greatest environmental risk to human health in the UK responsible with approximately 5.6% of all mortality attributable to long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5).
‘The COVID-19 pandemic provides a unique natural experimental opportunity to understand the positive and negative impacts arising from recent changes in the way people move around the city, thereby redefining local air quality policy and climate strategy.’
Cllr Tom Hayes, deputy leader and cabinet member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford at Oxford City Council, also commented: ‘We welcome this new research by the Universities of Oxford and Birmingham into air quality.
‘This study will help us to learn more about the impacts of air pollution before, during, and after lockdown, so that we can continue to develop an evidence-led plan for our Zero Emission Zone and Connecting Oxford proposals, as well as the city’s own Air Quality Action Plan.
‘I am looking forward to seeing the results of this research so that we can continue to learn as we tackle toxic air pollution in our city.’
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