Coronavirus: The environmental impact

U.S. & World

(KGW)   If you look at interstates during rush hour these days, the significance lies in what you won’t see: a lot of cars. Many people are working from home or have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus. Researchers say the lack of vehicle traffic is impacting something else we can’t see: the air we breathe.

Every week, scientists with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality collect and analyze air samples from a monitoring station off Interstate 5 near Tualatin. The latest data showed a continuing downward trend for two pollutants found in vehicle emissions: nitrogen oxide and black carbon. 

“Traffic has gone down almost by half,” notes Linda George, a professor of environmental science and management at Portland State University. 

Both George and DEQ officials stressed that this time of year, air quality is driven more by weather factors such as wind, than car emissions.

“You’ll see the air was even cleaner in January and that’s because we had so much wind,” George says.

George says what’s important to note is the downward trend. She believes a couple more weeks of data would solidify the correlation between driving and air quality, a potentially useful data set born from a dire situation.

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