Air quality has seen improvements for Earth Day 2020 with stay-at-home orders in place due to coronavirus

Wednesday, April 22, 2020, is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. This year’s theme is climate action. Because of the global coronavirus pandemic, it seems that air quality is improving as more people stay off the roads. Roya Bahreini is an associate professor of atmospheric science at the University of California, Riverside. She said this improvement of air quality is happening here in the United States and across the world with lockdowns in place.

Satellite images are showing this significant improvement in air quality. Levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO₂), one of many common pollutants that make up the Air Quality Index (AQI) used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has shown a decrease in Southern California from March 15-April 14 in 2019 compared to 2020.

Courtesy: Monarch Weather Consulting

Bahreini said, “There are measurements that are showing pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, some components of particulate matter, the fine aerosols, mostly pollutants that are related to vehicular exhaust, they have gone down.” A drastic change in vehicles on the road is decreasing air pollutants. In other parts of the world, like China, factories have also come to a halt. These factories halting, Bahreini said, have maybe even brought on an even stronger decrease of the pollutants.

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These changes are noticeable, not just with satellite images but also with the views of clearer skies we are seeing in major urban areas. But of course, people can’t stay at home forever and it’s only a matter of time before regular activities resume. Bahreini said, “But I hope that what we as a community learn is, it’s really our activities that are worsening air pollution.” As individuals, there is something to take with us after this pandemic. Trips taken to the grocery store, for example, are being limited by many to once every 1-2 weeks. Continuing to drive only when necessary is a big factor in reducing the use of fossil fuels by each person. Bahreini also added, “If we can carpool more, if we can have more electric cars and electric busses and electrically driven vehicles around, then we could achieve these better air qualities that we are seeing now.”

Something to remember as you are breathing in that cleaner air on Earth Day 2020.

News channel 3’s Taban Sharifi will have the full story today at 5 p.m. on KESQ.

Kaiser recommends that those in the Coachella Valley who are elderly and have underlying health conditions, including individuals who are HIV positive, limit non-essential travel and avoid large public gatherings.

Health officials said anyone who thinks they might be experiencing symptoms of the virus and want to be seen at Eisenhower Health should call the hospital hotline first at 760-837-8988. Avoid the spread of this illness.
Residents with further questions can call 2-1-1 and 800–CDC –INFO (800 – 232 – 4636) with any questions.

Public health recommendations for all Riverside County residents during community spread:

Practice social distancing, which is remaining out of places where people meet or gather and avoid using public transportation, if possible.
Do not attend work, school or events when sick. Stay home.
Cough into your elbow or tissue.
Wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizer often.
Stay away from anyone who is sick.

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