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London's air quality has improved dramatically since COVID-19 restrictions, says LAQN

Coronavirus: London Air Quality Network sensor systems initially registered record low readings as a fault

Mark Moran
01 April 2020
Air quality in London since the lockdown (LAQN)
Air quality in London since the lockdown (LAQN)
Air quality in London before the lockdown (red indicates high levels of pollution)
Air quality in London before the lockdown (red indicates high levels of pollution)


The restrictions on movement imposed during coronavirus lockdown means that average air pollution levels in London have fallen to their lowest since recordings began in 2000.

The London Air Quality Network (LAQN) reports that pollution in London has fallen so dramatically since the COVID-19 lockdown that monitors used to measure toxicity have been alerting the data collectors to possible faults with the readings.

The monitors record levels of nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, particulates and ozone levels. The pollution monitor measurements range from 1 to 10; low to very high. Since the lockdown, only low levels of pollution have been detected across the capital. In fact, the sensors have registered this as a possible fault.

The LAQN was formed in 1993 in conjunction with the London boroughs and regional health authorities to coordinate and improve air pollution monitoring in London. Currently, the LAQN comprises over 100 continuous monitoring sites in the majority of London’s 33 boroughs and is a resource used by quality managers in the capital.

Scientists at Kings College London, who monitor the network, believe the data collected could shape the advice they give to policy makers.

Dr Benjamin Barratt of King's College London told BBC London: "We have been given a natural experiment that we never ever expected to have to drastically those levels of transport emissions. We have had huge behavioural changes forced upon us in this situation. We're having to adapt and behave slightly differently particularly how we work a lot more remotely.

"That should make us realise we don't have to take the car to work, we don't have to travel in to the office every single day. I think it could be one positive that comes out of this and re-evaluate how we do things.”

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