Particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution did not decline during the lockdown period in Scotland, according to a new study published by researchers at the University of Stirling.
As the country went into lockdown and the number of car journeys was significantly reduced, widespread reports highlighted the dramatic decline in air pollution.
However, a recent paper has highlighted that in fact, in Scotland, PM2.5 – the most harmful pollutant to human health – did not decline.
The researchers analysed data from 70 roadside monitoring stations around Scotland from March 24 (the day after lockdown was introduced in the UK) to April 23. They then compared this to comparative 31-day periods in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
They found that across Scotland, the mean concentration of PM2.5 was 6.6 micrograms per cubic metre of air (µg/m3) in the observed period in 2020 – similar to the levels in 2017 (6.7 µg/m3) and 2018 (7.4 µg/m3).
Based on these findings, the researchers have concluded that traffic is not a key contributor to outdoor particulate matter pollution in Scotland and in fact, people may be at greater risk from air pollution in their own homes.
Dr Ruaraidh Dobson, who led the study, said: ‘It has been assumed that fewer cars on the road might have led to a decline in the level of air pollution outdoors and, in turn, reduce the number of cases of ill health linked to this pollution.
‘However, our study found no evidence of fine particulate air pollution declining in Scotland because of lockdown.
‘This suggests that vehicles aren’t an important cause of this very harmful type of air pollution in Scotland – and people may be at greater risk from poor air quality in their own homes, especially where cooking and smoking is taking place in enclosed and poorly ventilated spaces.’
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