Many people in Italian towns and cities now say they are breathing cleaner air since the lockdown was imposed. It may be one of the most welcome and noticeable side-effects of the quarantine for many people around the country. Has pollution really dropped and will this help improve the environment in the long term? The European Environment Agency (EEA) confirmed that Italy’s air quality has improved since the country went into coronavirus quarantine, a trend seen elsewhere in Europe as well.
Milan was long been troubled by air pollution. The topography and weather patterns can leave the pollutants trapped in the atmosphere over the city for days on end. It is the economic capital of Italy and the heart of the Lombardia. It is also the region that has taken the worst hit during the coronavirus outbreak and the first part of the country to introduce emergency quarantine measures.
The lockdown in Italy began in certain northern areas on February 23, before it was extended nationwide on March 9. Since that time, in Milan, the concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) has fallen by 24 percent. The gas is primarily as a result of emissions by cars, trucks and power stations and can cause inflammation of the respiratory system, among other conditions.
In Rome, NO2 levels have fallen between 26 and 35 percent for the same four week period as measured a year earlier. In Bergamo, Italy’s hardest hit city, the reduction was an astounding 47 percent.
The EEA said its “data confirms large decreases in air pollutant concentrations… largely due to reduced traffic and other activities, especially in major cities under lockdown measures.” The European Space Agency (ESA) also released a video of satellite imagery which showed exactly where NO2 emissions have decreased over Italy since the quarantine began. It said that the decline was particularly evident in the northern regions of the country, most especially in the Po Valley. It indicated that the reduction in the pollution is a direct result of the lockdown.