Air quality improves during the pandemic as travel and manufacturing decrease

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The problems the coronavirus pandemic has created are countless. However, the virus has induced a significant benefit, improved air quality. Not only can you see it, you can breathe it, and indirectly feel it. The reasons for the improved air quality are mainly due to reduced travel and less manufacturing.

In the case of travel, hydrocarbons and nitrous oxides are the main pollutants emitted by cars, planes, and fueling stations. These chemicals interact with sunlight to produce ozone near the surface.

High levels of surface ozone can cause heart and respiratory problems. But stratospheric ozone, or high altitude ozone is good. It filters out harmful ultraviolet rays. But, we are focusing on surface nitrogen dioxide that contributes to surface ozone formation

During the quarantine, fewer cars on the highways mean lower nitrous dioxides leading to lower ozone for better breathing and visibility. Nationally and globally the nitrogen dioxide values are over 30% lower.

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