The eight hundred (saved from pollution)

Before writing this, I almost made the mistake of referencing the movie the three hundred, the film about how three hundred Spartan warriors fought to defend their city. That certainly would have made me look incompetent, however, it did highlight one thing, round numbers make for good stories. So here is the inspirational tale about how lockdown measures possibly saved eight hundred people from air pollution.

Unlike the story of Sparta, which is just one city, this one involves a whopping forty-seven. Comparing air pollution in these cities between February and July 2020, when most of the world was locked down and thus away from our daily dose of pollutants, the European union’s Copernicus Climate Service (CAMS) said air quality was noticeably improved. At least we know lockdowns do a few things well, such as stopping the spread of deadly viruses and reducing pollution, though it has seen a rise in the number of people about to lose their jobs because of cake.

“This is Carbon dioxide!”

I’m sure many of you will be expected to say this; after all, Carbon dioxide gets all the publicity as a pollutant, but in this case it is nitrogen dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide is the pollutant most commonly linked to the immediate health effects of pollution. The European Environment Agency has given evidence linking nitrogen dioxide to respiratory and heart conditions responsible for fifty thousand premature deaths in the EU every year. The study found that in France, Spain and Italy, nitrogen dioxide levels fell between fifty and sixty per cent in the first lockdown.

There was found to be a clear correlation between the reduction in air pollution and the affected area’s short-term mortality rates. The Spartan three hundred couldn’t claim the same, in their affected area there was a sharp rise in mortality. Major cities such as Paris, London and Barcelona were amongst those in the studies found to have avoided deaths due to lockdown measures then in place.

According to CAMS director Vincent-Henri Peuch, the findings are “extremely significant.” Certainly, they give insight into the short term effects of pollution, and into the fact, the first lockdown positively affected pollution levels. Whilst the world may not realise it, we are at war with a common enemy. Climate change will drastically alter the way of life of every human being on the planet if not dealt with, and perhaps this study will heed more warnings to governments across the globe. That is if they are not too busy figuring out if that work event was really a party.


Written by Adam Caudle

Research compiled by Billy Ryan


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