Updated: Dec 31, 2020
The coronavirus outbreak has caused mayhem around the world, forcing countries to lock down, schools to shut down, and grocery stores to sell out. Millions of individuals are in isolation to prevent infection of the virus, and the flow of urban life has been on pause. With the coalition of reduced traffic, commercial activity, and industrial activity, there has been a dramatic decline in air polluting emissions. For example, according to NASA, China's carbon emissions have dropped by a quarter, and its levels of nitrogen dioxide has dropped 30% (NPR, 2020). Another example can be seen in Madrid where the average nitrogen dioxide levels declined by 56% week-on-week after the Spanish government banned non-essential travel on March 14. Numerous other locations reflect the situation in China and Madrid, revealing the positive impact quarantine has had on the environmental side of things. Though, this beneficial effect on the environment and people is temporary. It will be a matter of time until the coronavirus settles down and countries resume their heavy-pollutant lifestyle. Where does air pollution come from? Air pollution is derived from a multitude of factors: massive power plants, driving cars, agricultural activity — basically, most human activities. Air pollution degrades the quality of air, making it difficult for humans, animals, and plants to live, and accumulated 8.8 million premature deaths worldwide in 2015 (Gesellschaft, 2020). This type of pollution leaves individuals vulnerable to respiratory diseases such as lung cancer, bronchitis, and emphysema, and it even leaves individuals more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus (Biggers, 2020).
In addition, it is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. When air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide are released into the atmosphere, heat becomes trapped on the planet's surface. This has led to warming oceans and melting glaciers, as a result. So what can we do to mitigate air pollution? Air pollution has constantly wreaked havoc on our planet and our people, but that doesn't mean we can't subvert the outcome. If everyone played their part, the effects of air pollution would no longer be detrimental, and it would take us one step closer to defeating climate change. Now, here are some things anyone can start doing in their everyday lives to reduce pollution (EPA, 2018): - Carpool, use public transportation, bike, or walk whenever possible. - Mulch or compost leaves and yard waste. - Conserve electricity and set air conditioners no lower than 78 degrees. - Refuel your car in the evening when its cooler. - Reduce or eliminate fireplace and wood stove use. - Be sure your tires are properly inflated. - Follow gasoline refueling instructions for efficient vapor recovery, being careful not to spill fuel and always tightening your gas cap securely. Tackling this issue needs to be a team effort. We can not depend solely on our government to enforce regulation; rather, we need to depend on ourselves and others to make the effort to change. In the end, even the smallest change can and will lead to a big difference in the world.
National Public Radio (NPR). (2020, March 4). Why China's Air Has Been Cleaner During The Coronavirus Outbreak . Retrieved March 28, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/03/04/811019032/why-chinas-air-has-been-cleaner-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak.
Gesellschaft, M. (2020, March 5). Air pollution is one of the world's most dangerous health risks. Retrieved March 28, 2020, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200305135048.htm.
New York Post (NYPost). (2020, March 30). Air pollution decreases across Europe as coronavirus locks down major cities. Retrieved March 29, 2020, from https://nypost.com/2020/03/30/air-pollution-decreases-across-europe-as-coronavirus-locks-down-major-cities/.
United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2018, September 27). Actions You Can Take to Reduce Air Pollution. Retrieved March 29, 2020, from https://www3.epa.gov/region1/airquality/reducepollution.html.
Biggers, A. (2020, January 10). How does air pollution affect our health? Retrieved March 29, 2020, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327447.