Sulphur dioxide pollution more than doubled in the first 100 days of lockdown, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Liverpool.
Researchers from the University’s School of Environmental Science analysed data from DEFRA air-quality sensors and the UK Met Office stations to see how lockdown measures had affected air pollution and they then compared their findings to data from the past seven years.
The research revealed that during the lockdown period (from March 23 to June 13) nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels were cut by half, which the researchers have said is due to the reduction in vehicle emissions.
However, surprisingly, the researchers found that levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2) pollution, which is typically created by UK industry were more than double that of previous years.
The researchers also explored the localised effects of lockdown on air-quality in seven large UK cities: London, Glasgow, Belfast, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Liverpool.
This revealed that NO2 pollution in all of the cities reduced on average of 37 – 41%. However, northern cities were found to experience greater increases in sulphur dioxide.
Dr Jonny Higham, who led the study said: ‘The results of our analysis are surprising.
‘It is evident that the reduction in motor vehicles and human activity had a substantial impact on air quality as demonstrated by the reduction in nitrogen oxide.
However, although it reduced one pollutant there has been a big increase in another pollutant.
‘We think these changes could be driven by an in-balance in the complex air chemistry near to the surface exacerbated by the meteorological conditions in particularly low humidity levels and changes in pollutions concentrations.
‘It is important to note that the complex and relatively stable air composition in the near-surface layer can be disrupted in a short period of time by the significant reduction of primary emissions from human activities.
‘For the case of the UK, getting cleaner air from a large NO2 reduction may not be as straightforward as it seems.’
Photo Credit – Pixabay