Air quality during the Coronavirus pandemic

Screenshot 2020-04-08 at 12.43.02April 2020 Air quality in Brentford has improved on the whole during the Coronavirus pandemic with a vast reduction in traffic travelling along the M4 and A4 arterial routes. Hounslow Council employ Ricardo to do their air quality monitoring and you can look at the results and make graphs such as this at

Two articles highlight how important good air quality is for those suffering with Covid-19 and other lung conditions:

1. Dr Gary Fuller from Kings College London has pointed out that the levels of air pollution weren’t as low as they could be, in his article for The Guardian:

But with countries in lockdown, why was air pollution still as high as three or four? Measurements from King’s College London provide the answer. Chemical analysis of the pollution particles showed traffic sources along with gas combustion for power generation by industry and for home heating, as you might expect. Wood burning in London’s homes added to the mixture.

Many particles also included ammonia in their make-up. This comes from agriculture; crops are being planted and fertilised, and manure is being spread on fields over the UK and Europe. It is these agricultural emissions that make spring our most polluted season.

study of the Sars epidemic in China suggested that infected people were more likely to die if their area had poor-quality air. In Dublin the in 1980s, it was a deterioration of survival rates inside hospitals that prompted the city to ban the most polluting types of coal. It is too early to tell whether avoiding this smog will have helped those people suffering from the Covid-19 virus. One big lesson is that air pollution control comes from many sources, and farmers and those with wood fires will need to be part of the fight for clean air.

It’s possible to explore the Kings College air quality monitor results here:

2. Damien Carrington’s article in The Guardian explains that:

Air pollution is linked to significantly higher rates of death in people with Covid-19, according to analysis.

Given the large differences in toxic air levels across countries, the research suggests people in polluted areas are far more likely to die from the coronavirus than those living in cleaner areas. The scientists said dirty air was already known to increase the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is extremely deadly and a cause of Covid-19-related deaths, as well as other respiratory and heart problems.

A separate report from scientists in Italy notes that the high death rates seen in the north of the country correlate with the highest levels of air pollution.

The scientists said their findings could be used to ensure that areas with high levels of air pollution take extra precautions to slow the spread of the virus and deploy extra resources to deal with the outbreak. Air pollution has already fallen because of widespread lockdowns, but the scientists said ensuring cleaner air in the future would help reduce Covid-19 deaths.

One thought on “Air quality during the Coronavirus pandemic

  1. Pingback: Cultivate your garden during the lockdown – Brentford Recycling Action Group

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