London's air is cleaner than it has been for years following the Covid-19 lockdown*. This is a positive sign that changes in behaviour can have a real impact on the quality of the air we breathe. Travel in the capital has dramatically reduced, while those that must travel for work are often choosing to walk or cycle. There has also been an explosion of home delivery services using pedal and electric bikes.
However, poor air quality is still being reported by Airtext. Monitoring from King’s College London shows that harmful particulate air pollution (PM2.5) is still coming from gas for energy and heating, agriculture, transport and wood burning from London homes. A recent survey carried out in Hackney showed that 16% of respondents regularly burn solid fuel. It is estimated that 9% of particulate matter air pollution in Hackney comes from domestic burning**.
This shows that we still need to be conscious of how our activities affect local air quality. There is still an opportunity to reduce personal car use, walk and cycle more for our exercise or for our commutes, if we need to, and even shop with companies that deliver by bike. We can also make sure we are not contributing to harmful particulate pollution by not burning any wood, charcoal or waste.
This is particularly relevant during the Covid-19 pandemic. Recent studies are now showing that areas with high concentrations of PM 2.5 prior to the lockdown have had higher levels of mortality from the Coronavirus***.
The huge change in travel patterns and the resulting cleaner air means that even a temporary improvement in air quality can help “flatten the curve” of the pandemic, said Christopher Carlsten, head of respiratory medicine at the University of British Columbia which could ease the strain on the NHS.
The reduction in traffic, quiet skies and improvement in air quality have been making an impact on people’s perception and understanding of air quality. We can all carry on doing our bit to make sure our air continues to improve for the benefit of everyone.
Find out more about Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Islington waste collections as well as information on solid fuel burning and advice from the National Fire Chief. If you would like air pollution alerts for your area sign up here for free.
**London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (LAEI) 2019
Ilustrated image courtesy of Good Wives and Warriors