Is The Novel Coronavirus Covid-19 Reducing Smog?

By now, most of us have realized that both the viral outbreak and the worldwide response to the outbreak will leave lasting scars on society as a whole. Life isn’t going back to normal anytime soon. Schools are closed and colleges have kicked students out of their dorms, sending them home. Bars, clubs, and restaurants have followed suit to close their doors. Public gatherings are banned. Word is that we might face a national shutdown here in the United States, much like those in France, Spain, and Italy.

Oddly enough, the environmental impact of the virus might be the only benefit. In fact, the reduction in smog in China is so large that one study estimated that up to 100,000 early deaths might be avoided. 

Because traffic in certain regions is basically nonexistent right now, and coal and oil plants are shutting down, smog in the air has also been down.

Senior Researcher Kristin Aunan at the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo (Cicero) said, “But we have to remember that air pollution kills people, especially vulnerable elderly people.” She advised the public to understand that elderly people are a vulnerable portion of society with or without an outbreak — but that we shouldn’t dismiss the potential severity of the current pandemic.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), smog leads to about seven million deaths each year from associated diseases. That’s most likely many more deaths than will be caused by covid-19. 

Aunan’s study showed that air pollution in China was lowered by about 20 to 30 percent in February thanks to the measures put into place to halt the spread of covid-19.

Spokespeople for the European Public Health Alliance said, “Covid-19 has also highlighted the need for a long-term EU strategy to address Europe’s invisible epidemic of non-communicable diseases, and measures to tackle air pollution…Patients suffering from conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, or respiratory diseases have proved to be particularly vulnerable to the outbreak.”

The European Commission reported that at least 400,000 people die within its borders each year.

Aunan said, “When we look into the future for climate change and air pollution…all these risk factors are continually taking lives.”

How strange is it that it took a viral pandemic to make some of us realize that air pollution is one of the biggest killers in our world?