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NO2 & PM follow different paths

Air Quality

12 June 2020

The  big reduction in nitrogen dioxide concentrations seen in towns and cities during the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions has not been mirrored by fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations. 

Transport for London has reported 20 monitoring sites in London where average daily NO2 concentrations fell by more than 23 per cent after travel restrictions were introduced in March. Concentrations at the Marylebone Road site fell 48 per cent fall and on Oxford Street by 47 per cent. On the Strand concentrations dropped 42 per cent.

In its interim guidance to boroughs on the Streetspace for London programme, TfL said the drop on Oxford Street has “strengthened the case for pedestrianisation”. 

Officers told the West Midlands Combined Authority’s transport delivery committee this week that NO2 concentrations in Birmingham were 42 per cent down in April compared against the five-year average. 

Reading and West Yorkshire Combined Authority have also reported sharp drops (LTT 29 May). 

The NO2 reductions are associated with the steep fall in  traffic volumes. 

Jake Thrush, associate policy advisor at Transport for the West Midlands, said the fall in PM2.5 concentrations had not been as marked. “This reflects the many sources of fine particulates, not just motor vehicle emissions – potentially including garden waste burning, agricultural muck spreading, and industrial and other emissions blowing over from continental Europe, which occurred to an unusual extent in spring 2020.” 

A West Yorkshire Combined Authority officer report said last month: “PM emissions have been static, a consequence, potentially, of the use of domestic wood burners (during a cold snap) and an increase in domestic bonfires (possibly linked to council refuse tips and waste recycling centres being temporarily closed due to Covid-19).” 

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