Air quality shows ‘cleaner world’ for Earth Day, study shows

Apr 22, 2020, 10:36 AM
A compilation of data from the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October 2012. Photo NASA...
A compilation of data from the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October 2012. Photo NASA

SALT LAKE CITY — A new report from IQ Air shows air pollution levels have dropped dramatically across the world, with unprecedented low levels as celebrations take place during the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

The study compares the fine particulate matter (PM2.5) — a harmful air pollutant — around the world, before and after lockdown orders were put in place. Researchers found dramatic drops in pollution, noting the worldwide stay-at-home restrictions allowed for the “largest-scale experiment ever” into air quality.

“In many places, the halt of movement and industry has shown a glimpse of a cleaner world, with many reports of exceptional blue skies,” the report said. “Findings reveal a drastic drop in PM2.5 pollution for most global locations under lockdown conditions.”

Some studies have linked poor air quality to a higher likelihood of death from COVID-19, and IQ Air calling air pollution “far deadlier” than the coronavirus — with 90% of the world’s population breathing unsafe air, according to an article posted by the company in February.

“While the new coronavirus is dominating international headlines, a silent killer is contributing to nearly 7 million more deaths a year: air pollution,” Frank Hammes, IQAir CEO, said in a statement. “Through compiling and visualizing data from thousands of air quality monitoring stations, the 2019 World Air Quality Report gives new context to the world’s leading environmental health threat.”

However, with more people staying inside, cities with historically higher PM2.5 levels saw a substantial drop in air pollution.

The report analyzed the change in air pollutants in 10 major global cities:

  • Delhi — which was the fifth most polluted city in 2019, according to IQ Air.
  • London
  • Los Angeles
  • Milan
  • Mumbai
  • New York City
  • Rome
  • São Paulo
  • Seoul
  • Wuhan

Researchers collected data from a three-week period when each of these cities was in lockdown from the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, they compared their findings with data from the same time period in 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016.

They found nine of the 10 cities experienced a drop in air pollution compared to the same time period in 2019, with major drops in Delhi (-60%), Seoul (-54%) and Wuhan (-44%) — which are all cities with historically higher levels of PM2.5 pollution, according to the study.

Additionally, Wuhan reported its cleanest February and March air quality on record during its 10-week lockdown. Similarly, Los Angeles experienced its longest streak of clean air on record, meeting the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines.

The study links the major drops in pollution to the restrictions of people moving around and the halt of economic activity, which have been imposed in efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories


The Utah House has advanced the bill that bans transgender-related surgeries on minors and pauses t...
Aimee Cobabe

Equality Utah supports bill clarifying rules for therapists when it comes to conversion therapy for minors

Equality Utah is supporting a bill adjusting rules for therapists when it comes to conversion therapy for minors.
2 days ago
When inversions bring pollution to the ground, we breathe it in. That makes it easier to get sick a...
Dale Spaulding

Is illness or poor air quality causing that cough?

Inversion can impact a person's health. Is that why people are coughing, or is it just the regular cold and flu season?
2 days ago
A woman wearing white sitting in front of a light box...
Michelle Lee

Winter blues: light therapy and lifestyle changes can help

SALT LAKE CITY – With the chilly weather and the shorter days, many people are prone to experience the winter blues. In the latest Let’s Get Moving with Maria podcast episode, host Maria Shilaos spoke with Dr. Jason Hunziker from the Huntsman Mental Health Institute about ways people can overcome the winter blues. Seasonal depression […]
3 days ago
A new study finds that reports of bad weather and air actually decrease ridership on the UTA....
Devin Oldroyd

Relief from inversion and poor air quality may be in Utah’s near future

The Beehive State is in the middle of some thick inversion and poor air quality, but relief may be on the way according to the National Weather Service.
5 days ago
A study by Intermountain Health that spanned 40 years and sought answers about the health of people...
Simone Seikaly

Intermountain’s 40-year study provides insight into weight-loss surgery

In some cases the results from the weight-loss surgery study were expected. But at least one result could be a cause for alarm and caution.
5 days ago
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service has issued a recall for mil...
Simone Seikaly

Check your pantry, a Conagra canned meat recall may affect you

Millions of pounds of canned meat and poultry products (mainly Vienna sausages) are involved in the Conagra recall.
5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a New Winter Activity? Try Skijoring in Bear Lake

This article about skijoring is sponsored by the Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau. Participate in Skijoring the Bear on February 20th, 2023.  What is skijoring? Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and […]
Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Air quality shows ‘cleaner world’ for Earth Day, study shows