Air pollution levels around the world are dropping as the coronavirus has shut down travel and industrial activity, according to reports.
Images from the European Space Agency show how levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over industrial areas and cities in both Europe and Asia over the last six weeks are significantly lower than during the same time last year.
Nitrogen dioxide emissions, which are caused by burning fuel, cars, power plants, and construction machinery, are harmful to people and can contribute to a range of respiratory conditions.
‘Hope from something terrible’
“We are now, inadvertently, conducting the largest-scale experiment ever seen,” Paul Monks, professor of air pollution at the University of Leicester, told The Guardian.
“Are we looking at what we might see in the future if we can move to a low-carbon economy? Not to denigrate the loss of life, but this might give us some hope from something terrible. To see what can be achieved.”
He added: “It seems entirely probable that a reduction in air pollution will be beneficial to people in susceptible categories, for example some asthma sufferers. It could reduce the spread of disease. A high level of air pollution exacerbates viral uptake because it inflames and lowers immunity.”