Measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 over the last 30 days have resulted in the avoidance of 11,000 deaths from air particle pollution.
According to a study from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), there has been a 40% reduction in the average level of nitrogen dioxide and a 10% reduction in the average level of air pollution in Europe. This comes after a drop in power generation from coal and oil consumption by over a third respectively.
The findings published in the report were based on a CREA assessment of the air quality and health impacts of reduced fossil fuel consumption during the pandemic.
Other positives include 1.3 million fewer days of sick leave from work, 6000 fewer new cases of asthma in children, 1900 avoided emergency visits due to asthma attacks, and 600 fewer preterm births. CREA said that many of these can be linked to chronic air pollution exposure.
The report found that the quality of our air and the amount of pollution in it, is directly contributing to the load on our healthcare system at the time of the pandemic. Because of air pollution, more people suffer from pre-existing conditions that make them more susceptible to the virus/.
The CREA report states:
“The measures to combat the COVID-19 epidemic have resulted in unprecedentedly dramatic reductions in coal and oil burning and associated air pollution in Europe. This reduction in pollution has helped alleviate pressure on the health care system during this crisis. Furthermore, our analysis highlights the tremendous benefits for public health and quality of life that could be achieved by rapidly reducing fossil fuels in a sustained and sustainable way.”
They add that the results show how normalised the massive death toll from pollution has become and states they show what can be achieved if we shift to clean energy.
“As we are all anxious for life and business to return to normal, no one is looking forward to the return of fossil fuel pollution. It is vital for European decision-makers to prioritize clean air, clean energy and clean transport as a part of the plans for recovering from the crisis,” the CREA said.