Transportation restrictions meant that there were far fewer cars and transport trucks on the roads, which made the most impact on air quality according to the study led by specialists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).
The team analyzed 47 European cities and discovered that the cities of Paris, London, Barcelona, and Milan were included in the top six with the highest number of avoided deaths. Closing workplaces and schools in European cities also reduced traffic and therefore air pollution, and the lack of public events also meant that more people stayed home.
Minimizing air pollution led to less nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) in the air. Spanish, French, and Italian cities experienced a 50 to 60 percent reduction in NO₂ during the initial lockdowns.
“The lockdown during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic created immense health and social costs. However, it has offered unique conditions to investigate potential effects of strict policies to reduce pollution levels in urban areas,” stated Antonio Gasparrini, professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at LSHTM and senior author of the study.
“This ‘natural experiment’ has given us a glimpse of how air quality can be improved by drastic public health measures that would be difficult to implement in normal times. The information can be important to design effective policies to tackle the problem of pollution in our cities,” he added.
The hope that scientists have is that similar studies will be carried out to help make clear the importance of improving urban air quality — not only for human health but for the environment.
Source study: Scientific Reports – Differential impact of government lockdown policies on reducing air pollution levels and related mortality in Europe