Air quality up in some EU cities during pandemic lockdown

Air quality up in some EU cities during pandemic lockdown
People wearing face masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus sit on a street bench in downtown Madrid, Spain, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says a national COVID-19 vaccination plan will be launched in January. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Air quality significantly improved in European metropolitan areas such as Milan and Madrid because of lockdown restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, European Union officials said Monday.

The improvements were particularly notable for the pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and , which both can have a serious impact on people's health.

An EU report on published Monday showed that among with the largest NO2 concentrations, Barcelona's levels sank by 59% during the early spring compared to the year before. NO2 levels in Madrid dropped by 47%.

In Italy, NO2 pollution in Milan fell by 54% and in Rome by 39%. Levels in many other metropolitan areas across Europe, especially western Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, also dropped by significant margins.

"Now we realize that this is, of course, temporary and that we should not be reaching air quality standards by locking down society," said Hans Bruyninckx, the executive director of the European Environmental Agency.

""But it indicates that if we can keep pushing and if we can keep innovating in those sectors, that indeed serious benefits to society, to are there," he added.

Lockdown measures in several EU member states during the first wave of the pandemic had a major impact on economic activity, dramatically reducing road and air transport plus shipping. That all affected the air quality in the regions.

  • Air quality up in some EU cities during pandemic lockdown
    European Commissioner for Environment and Oceans Virginijus Sinkevicius speaks during a media conference on the air quality in Europe for 2020 at EU headquarters in Brussels, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool via AP)
  • Air quality up in some EU cities during pandemic lockdown
    European Commissioner for Environment and Oceans Virginijus Sinkevicius speaks during a media conference on the air quality in Europe for 2020 at EU headquarters in Brussels, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool via AP)

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