For the first time in decades, many countries around the world have experienced blue skies, clean air and starry nights.
COVID-19: A Temporary Unusual Factor influencing Air Quality
In India, air pollution has become a serious issue mainly because of the enhanced man-made activities like rapid urbanization, increased energy consumption, vehicular emission and industrial emission and higher population growth. The COVID 19 lockdown brought a change in the air quality.
The COVID-19 pandemic came as a major, exceptional factor influencing air quality during 2020.
How does lockdown effects the air we breathe?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, space- and ground-based observations have shown that Earth’s atmosphere has seen significant reductions in some air pollutants. The Lockdown of the business and schools, production sectors, restriction on travel, and controlled public transportation system has resulted in the lowering of emission of pollutants.
While there have been significant societal and personal costs, many countries around the world have experienced blue skies, clean rivers and starry nights, often for the first time in many years.
The sky in Rajpath, New Delhi, India, in 2018 & during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.
NASA researchers found that since February 2020, pandemic restrictions have reduced global nitrogen dioxide concentrations by nearly 20%. Satellite and ground-based air quality monitoring data have shown substantial reductions in concentrations of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and, in some cases, modest reductions for other pollutants such as PM2.5. At the same time, levels of ozone appear to have increased, in part due to the reductions in NO2 and changes in meteorological factors including temperature. Nitrogen dioxide is an air pollutant that is primarily produced by the combustion of fossil fuels used by industry and transportation—both of which were significantly reduced during the lockdowns.
COVID 19 has offered only a temporary improvement in air pollution
Evidence from some countries shows, these changes are only temporary. COVID-19 has offered only a temporary relaxation from air pollution because as and when the lockdown restrictions were lifted, the emission of the pollutant again increased.
Nonetheless, the blue skies have offered a reminder of what pollution takes away, and actions to restrict the spread of COVID-19 offered only a temporary solution, inspiring us to enjoy cleaner air in the longer term.
Gas heating systems, leaking chimneys, fire places emits carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and other harmful pollutants. Plastics and common household cleaners, paints, paint thinner often placed under the kitchen sink, release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), when used and stored. Overheating of non-stick cookware releases toxic fumes. Pesticides we use in and around the home also release various chemical and semi-volatile compounds.
Harmful effects Carbon monoxide causes headache, dizziness and fatigue. These often cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, nausea, and can also damage the liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Fine particles are produced during all kinds of combustion which lead to acute and chronic effects to respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
Pet dander and hair, carpet, rugs, upholstery furniture are main source of dust mites, fungus, and bacteria. A dirty filter of air conditioners acts as a reservoir for dirt, dust and other airborne contaminants that are continuously circulated back into your breathing air. Secondhand smoke from cigarettes, other tobacco products and mosquito coil emits VOC’s and formaldehyde and various particulate matters. CO2 released from our lungs is exhaled in the air which pollutes the air if the place is too crowded or there is less ventilation.
Harmful effects All these can trigger coughing, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, dry mouth, vomiting, digestive tract problems, depression, allergy and asthma attacks, and other respiratory illness.
Shower, faucets and other water sources are main cause of humidity and mold. Bathroom cleaners and personal care products like toothpaste, soaps, facial tissues, detergent, fabric softeners, air fresheners, deodorizers, hair sprays, disinfectants, are full of VOC’s and chemicals which emits harmful pollutants.
Harmful effects Mold can cause allergic reactions, asthma and other respiratory ailments. VOC’s and toxic chemicals released in the bathroom can causes eye, nose, and throat irritation, nausea and respiratory problems. All these products release harmful pollutants while they are used also when they are stored.
A bedroom contains many sources of indoor air pollution. Mattress, pillow and blankets, soft toys, are the reservoirs of dust mites, fungi and bacteria. Furniture, carpets, paints and beauty product like hairspray, nail polishes, perfumes, deodorants etc off gas VOC, formaldehyde and toxic gases into the air.
Harmful effects These pollutants make the air unhealthy which leads to allergy, asthma attacks, dizziness, headache, fatigue and other respiratory ailments.
Second-hand smoke Second hand Smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning of tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars or pipes and the smoke exhaled by smokers. Secondhand smoke is also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). Passive smoking can lead to coughing, excess phlegm, and chest discomfort. NCI (National Cancer Institute) also notes that spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), cervical cancer, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight, nasal sinus cancer, decreased lung function, exacerbation of cystic fibrosis, and negative cognitive and behavioral effects in children have been linked to ETS. Secondhand smoke exposure commonly occurs indoors, particularly in homes and cars. Secondhand smoke can move between rooms of a home and between apartment units.
Central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices The air filter in your HVAC system is the front line of defense against poor indoor air quality. A typical central heating and cooling system circulates over 1,000 cubic feet per minute of air through the filter. This means the entire air volume in your house passes through the filter multiple times every day. A dirty filter, however, can actually make indoor air quality worse by acting as a reservoir for dirt, dust and other airborne contaminants that are continuously circulated back into your breathing air. In addition to driving up your utility bill, a clogged air filter will allow all that dust and debris that should be filtered out to be re-circulated back into your home. This can cause chronic allergies and especially be dangerous for people with asthma or other respiratory conditions.