Estimation of changes in air pollution emissions, concentrations and exposure during the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK: Report for The Air Quality Expert Group, on behalf of Defra: Analysis of air quality changes experienced in Sussex and Surrey since the COVID-19 outbreak

Nigel Jenkins, Harley Parfitt, Mark Nicholls, Paul Beckett, Kevin Wyche, Kirsty Smallbone, Doug Gregg, Megan Smith

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

Abstract

The Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG) in conjunction with Defra issued a call for evidence on 7th April 2020, identifying seven areas of current scientific uncertainty related to the potential interactions between COVID-19 and UK air pollution. See: https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/news?view=259

The initial aim of the evidence review was to support a rapid expert assessment of available data sources and analyses that had been recently completed by the academic community and the air quality consulting and management sector. The call was structured around seven questions posed by Defra: 1. What sectors or areas of socioeconomic activity do you anticipate will show a decrease in air pollution emissions, and by how much? Are there any emissions sources or sectors which might be anticipated to lead to an increase in emissions in the next three months? 2. Can you provide estimates for how emissions and ambient concentrations of NOx, NO2, PM, O3, VOC, NH3 etc. may have changed since the COVID-19 outbreak? Where possible please provide data sets to support your response. 3. What changes do you anticipate in indoor air quality as a result of the COVID19 pandemic? 4. How might public exposure to air pollution have changed as a consequence of recent restrictions on movement? 5. How might altered emissions of air pollutants over the next three months affect UK summertime air quality? 6. Based on what is already known about air pollutants as respiratory irritants or inflammatory agents, can any insights be gained into the impact of air quality on viral infection? 7. Are there any insights that can be gained from aerosol science on possible viral transmission mechanisms? By close of the call on 30th April over 50 responses had been received from a range of organisations including research groups at universities and institutes, commercial organisations, industry bodies and Local Authorities. Annex 1 shows the contributing organisations. This has provided a body of information that is particularly useful for assessing emerging issues associated with changes in emissions, concentrations and exposure to air pollution since the UK lockdown was imposed during the COVID19 pandemic. This report has been prepared by AQEG with input from a number of ad hoc members and the Defra secretariat. Question 6 was passed to the secretariat and members of the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) and their response is included in this report along with details of the contributors.

It is important to stress that this report predominantly evaluates air pollution data available up to 30th April 2020. It does not draw conclusions on air quality or emissions changes that may have arisen in the UK as a result of the government easing of lockdown restrictions in May 2020. Unusually for AQEG reports, this analysis is based predominantly on scientific and technical material that is not yet peer-reviewed, and indeed it often draws on observational data that has yet to receive final quality assurance ratification from the data providers. An expert judgement has therefore been made with regard to the weight given to different evidence sources and the associated uncertainties when drawing conclusions. In this rapidly evolving situation, it would be anticipated that a large body of peer-reviewed scientific literature will become available later in 2020, and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationUK
Number of pages57
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

Author contributions in annex. Report written by AQEG.

Keywords

  • air quality
  • COVID-19
  • pandemic

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