Cars turned out to be a minor air pollution factorSeptember 8, 2020
The study found that a 65% reduction in traffic on Scottish roads during the isolation regime did not have a significant impact on air pollution.
A new scientific study has shown that road traffic is not a major contributor to air pollution. In Scotland, the number of cars on the road decreased by 65% during the first month of the isolation regime, but this did not result in any significant improvement in outdoor air quality.
Researchers from the Institute for Social Marketing and Health at the University of Stirling analyzed levels of fine particle air pollution in Scotland, often referred to as PM2.5, which scientists believe is the type of air pollution that has the greatest impact on human health.
Data from 70 roadside monitoring stations in Scotland were analyzed from 24 March 2020 – the day after the lockdown in the UK – to 23 April 2020. The results were compared with data for similar 31-day periods in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
In Scotland, the average PM2.5 concentration was 6.6 micrograms per cubic meter of air during 2020. This was broadly similar to the levels of 6.7 and 7.4 measured in 2017 and 2018, respectively, despite the huge difference in the number of cars on the road.
In 2019, PM2.5 levels were significantly higher at 12.8, but the researchers said this result was not comparable as it was associated with a meteorological event that affected air quality in the United Kingdom by fine dust from the Sahara Desert. Excluding this event from the equation, the 2019 level would be around 7.8.
However, the study noted that nitrogen dioxide levels decreased between 2020. Regardless, the researchers stated that personal exposure to potentially hazardous air could actually increase during isolation. This is because people spend more time in their homes, where factors can be linked to culinary smoke and secondhand smoke.
“It was assumed that fewer cars on the road could lead to less outdoor air pollution and, in turn, reduce the incidence of pollution-related illnesses. However, our study – unlike studies conducted in places like Wuhan in China and Milan – found no evidence of reduced particulate air pollution in Scotland due to isolation, ” – said Dr. Ruaraid Dobson, who led the study.
“This suggests that vehicles are not 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 if cooking and smoking occurs in closed and poorly ventilated areas. premises, ” – he added.
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