Deaths from air pollution are plummeting as coronavirus lockdowns clean air

Although coronavirus has taken thousands of lives, the improved air quality that has come as a result of the lockdowns has led to 11,000 fewer deaths from pollution in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, a new study has revealed.

Sharp falls in road traffic and industrial emissions have also resulted in 1.3m fewer days of work absence, 6,000 fewer children developing asthma, 1,900 avoided emergency room visits, and 600 fewer preterm births, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

While the pandemic continues to take a terrible toll – more than 220,000 deaths worldwide since the start of the year – the authors of the report say the response has offered a glimpse of the cleaner, healthier environment that is possible if the world shifts away from polluting fossil fuel industries. Compared with the same period last year, levels of nitrogen dioxide have fallen by 40% while tiny particulate matter – known as PM2.5 – is down 10%, which means that people without Covid-19 can breathe easier. These two forms of pollution, which weaken the heart and respiratory system, are together normally responsible for about 470,000 deaths in Europe each year.

As for the overall calculation of 11,000 avoided deaths, it is the most likely estimate from a series of computer analyses with results ranging as high as 20,000 and as low as 7,000.

Worldwide, the number of avoided pollution deaths will be much higher because this study focuses on one continent and one month, rather than going back to the start of the global pandemic in Wuhan six months ago. The world’s two most populous and polluted nations – China and India – have experienced some of the sharpest falls in air pollution.

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Deaths from air pollution are plummeting as coronavirus lockdowns clean air

Although coronavirus has taken thousands of lives, the improved air quality that has come as a result of the lockdowns has led to 11,000 fewer deaths from pollution in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, a new study has revealed.

Sharp falls in road traffic and industrial emissions have also resulted in 1.3m fewer days of work absence, 6,000 fewer children developing asthma, 1,900 avoided emergency room visits, and 600 fewer preterm births, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

While the pandemic continues to take a terrible toll – more than 220,000 deaths worldwide since the start of the year – the authors of the report say the response has offered a glimpse of the cleaner, healthier environment that is possible if the world shifts away from polluting fossil fuel industries. Compared with the same period last year, levels of nitrogen dioxide have fallen by 40% while tiny particulate matter – known as PM2.5 – is down 10%, which means that people without Covid-19 can breathe easier. These two forms of pollution, which weaken the heart and respiratory system, are together normally responsible for about 470,000 deaths in Europe each year.

As for the overall calculation of 11,000 avoided deaths, it is the most likely estimate from a series of computer analyses with results ranging as high as 20,000 and as low as 7,000.

Worldwide, the number of avoided pollution deaths will be much higher because this study focuses on one continent and one month, rather than going back to the start of the global pandemic in Wuhan six months ago. The world’s two most populous and polluted nations – China and India – have experienced some of the sharpest falls in air pollution.

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