The strict quarantine measures taken in China to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus has significantly reduced air pollution in the country. According to a new study, cleaner air has helped prevent an estimated 12,125 deaths due to pollution, during the country's ban on traffic mobility between February 10 and March 14.
The study, led by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health and published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health, finds that the deaths avoided by cleaner air are higher than lives lost from the pandemic - 4,633 as of May 4.
"Our estimates suggest that interventions to contain the COVID-19 outbreak led to improvements in air quality that brought health benefits in non-COVID-19 deaths, which could potentially have outnumbered the confirmed deaths attributable to COVID-19 in China (4633 deaths as of May 4, 2020)" the study said.
"This is a very surprising result. The pandemic continues to be a terrible thing for China and the rest of the world, but the decrease in emissions that accompanied it has actually conferred some positive health results," Kai Chen, assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health and the study's first author was quoted by Phys.org.
According to the study, ground-level air pollution levels dropped significantly across China, with nitrogen dioxide (NO2) dropping by 37% compared with levels before the quarantine period. Meanwhile, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) dropped by 30% across 367 Chinese cities.
"Although our findings cannot be directly applied to other countries due to different severity of and responses to COVID-19, as well as differing air pollution levels and population characteristics, reduced air pollution levels have been detected in other countries such as South Korea, India, Italy, Germany, Spain, and the US after their own lockdowns," Chen told The Indian Express.