The significant reduction in vehicle journeys during the COVID-19 lockdown did not reduce the level of toxic fine particles in Scotland’s air, according to experts at the University of Stirling.
Analysis of fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) in the first month of restrictions found little change – despite a 65 per cent reduction in the number of vehicles on the country’s roads.
The team that led the research, from Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing and Health, say their findings suggest that traffic is not a key contributor to outdoor air pollution in Scotland – and, in fact, that people may be at greater risk from air pollution in their own homes.
Dr Ruaraidh Dobson, who led the study, said: “It has been assumed that fewer cars on the road might have led to a decline in the level of air pollution outdoors and, in turn, reduce the number of cases of ill health linked to this pollution. However, our study – contrary to research from places such as Wuhan in China, and Milan – found no evidence of fine particulate air pollution declining in Scotland because of lockdown. This suggests that vehicles aren’t an important cause of this very harmful type of air pollution in Scotland – and people may be at greater risk from poor air quality in their own homes, especially where cooking and smoking is taking place in enclosed and poorly ventilated spaces.”
Access the paper, Dobson, R. & Semple, S. Changes in outdoor air pollution due to COVID-19 lockdowns differ by pollutant: evidence from Scotland, is published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2020-106659