‘We should learn from this’ – Air pollution plummets in York

An empty Wigginton Road in York earlier this week. Photograph: Richard McDougall

Pollution levels of nitrogen dioxide – the main pollutant from car exhausts – are at their lowest level across the city.

The citywide shutdown has improved air quality, as dramatically fewer people get in their cars.

On the same day last year – March 26 – NO2 levels on Fulford Road reached 32µg/m3 during rush hour. But yesterday less than a third of the pollutant was detected during rush hour – 9µg/m3.

Levels of different pollutants – tiny PM2.5 and PM10 particles – were also low across the city yesterday.

City of York Council has air quality monitoring equipment installed at locations throughout the city – and nine sites where pollution can be tracked live.

‘We should learn from this’

Vehicle fumes have dropped. Photograph © kuanish-sar on Pixabay

Cllr Andy D’Agorne welcomed the lower levels of pollution and said: “This is clear evidence of what could be achieved for better air quality with lower traffic levels.

“Of course it’s an exceptional situation but one to remember and learn from after we beat this awful pandemic.”

Research by the University of York found that air pollution levels in some cities have dropped to levels lower than the average of the previous five years – as the coronavirus outbreak puts a stop to the majority of travel and work.

And they say that not only are there fewer cars on the roads – one of the main sources of pollution – but fewer people are being exposed to pollutants because they are staying at home.

Professor James Lee from the Department of Chemistry said: “These are the two air pollutants that have the biggest health impacts on people.

“From our analysis, pollution levels are clearly lower than the average of the previous five years.

“I would expect them to drop even further over the coming weeks.”