One of the biggest effects of the Covid19 lockdown was the reduction of air pollution. However, predictions have indicated that the results will be, most likely, short-lived. The link between the spread of the disease and air pollution is also a topic for discussion for scientists as, according to research, people living in polluted areas might actually be more susceptible to contracting and suffering complications after being infected with Covid19.
Air Pollution in Time of Covid19
As one-third of the world was under lockdown as a form of response to the Covid19 pandemic, the levels of air pollution dropped significantly. This was possible, as air and car traffic were limited, and most factories were closed. As people had to stay indoors they found new ways of entertainment like hanging more with the family, working on my motorcycle or looking for some models I really like for my helmet.
The effects of this change were visible both by the naked eye and by using binoculars and other optical devices. Reports from Milan, for instance, one of the cities in Europe that struggles with smog in recent years, showed that the city’s air was less polluted after the lockdown.
In an attempt to make changes that guarantee that these effects are still visible after the lockdown is ended, the authorities from Milan pledged to create new measures that limit the amount of pollutants that contaminate the air.
Similarly, in China, during the lockdown period, it is estimated that air pollution dropped by approximately 25%.
Air Pollution and Diseases
It is a known fact that air pollution has been linked to the rise in respiratory diseases. Numerous studies show that air pollution caused by biomass smoke and traffic pollution has affected the health of the population.
Some of the most common diseases that are caused by pollution are asthma, pulmonary diseases, tuberculosis, and pneumonia. Even though these diseases do not have the same immediate effect as Covid19, the association between pollution and these respiratory diseases cannot be questioned given the mounting evidence that is available today.
One aspect that is worth noting is the fact that air pollution is a factor that affects the lives of both citizens of developed and less-developed countries. Studies have indicated that exposure to air pollution is one of the factors that have contributed to the number of high fatalities in countries such as Italy.
The reason why air pollution is such an aggravating factor has a lot to do with the fact that the fine particles from the air travel deep into the body and, consequently, they promote diabetes, respiratory issues, hypertension, and heart conditions. All of these are contributing factors that increase the complications that coronavirus patients have to face.
Air Polluting Industries
The current situation offers the possibility of examining the industries that are the root cause of air pollution. Some studies go as far as to indicate that more than 95% of the breathing air is polluted and unsafe for the global population.
The production of energy, for instance, is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions. In the USA alone, approximately 68% of electricity is produced by burning coal and natural gas.
In an attempt to limit the amount of pollutants that affect the air as a result of power plants, the government has imposed the Clean Air Act, a federal law that regulates emissions.
The transportation sector is also an important source of air pollution. The emissions caused by air, road, water, and rail transport cause a significant part of acid deposition and they also affect climate change and ozone depletion.
In the last few decades, in Europe, numerous measures have been imposed to reduce air pollution caused by the transportation industry. As a result, the emission of carbon monoxide, Sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and non-methane volatile organic compounds have been greatly reduced.
The Fashion Industry
The fashion industry is now another big pollutant, especially given the fast fashion trends that are popular today. Some studies estimate that this industry emits more carbon than international air transportation and marine shipping combined.
To put it in clearer terms, around 10% of all carbon emissions are a result of the fashion industry. Even more worryingly, this sector of the industry is the second-largest consumer of the water supply as well as a major pollutant of the oceans.
The success of the fast fashion industry is unquestionable. When compared to the year 2000, people bought 60% more clothes in 2014 alone. Around 85% of all textiles are not recycled but simply thrown away. An average American is said to throw away around 80 pounds of clothing each year. The synthetic materials utilized when making accessible clothing take hundreds of years to decompose completely.
Industry in general creates 22% of all the greenhouse emissions in the world. These emissions are a byproduct of the process of transforming materials into plastic, textiles, or metal.
Farms are a big source of air pollution. Some go as far as to say that the emissions from farms are greater than the emissions caused by any other type of human-caused air pollution. The main culprit that makes agriculture such a major air pollutant is the use of nitrogen fertilizers, and animal waste.
Studies have shown that the agriculture sector is responsible for 50% of the methane emissions and 90% of the ammonia emissions in our air. Given the impact of agriculture on the environment, new sustainable practices have started to be introduced to produce healthy foods without affecting the ecosystem.
Trees can reabsorb around 40% of the carbon emissions caused by the industries. However, bad management of the forests can prove catastrophic. Since 1600, 75% of the virgin forests that covered the US have been deforested.
The loss of trees is known to affect not only the quality of air but also the quality of the soil, and it can intensify the effects of climate change. Besides human activities, deforestation is also caused by natural events such as floods, hurricanes, and fires, as well as by indirect causes such as governance failure when it comes to efficient land tenure.