A Chemical Cocktail of Air Pollution in Beijing, China, During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Hospital doctor wearing a mask.

They found that air pollution during the COVID-19 lockdown was mainly due to different chemical responses of primary and secondary aerosols to changes in anthropogenic emissions. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

COVID-19 has spread rapidly around the world and has limited people’s outdoor activities substantially. Air quality is therefore expected to be improved due to reduced anthropogenic emissions. However, in some megacities, air pollution has not improved as expected and severe haze episodes still occurred during the COVID-19 lockdown.

A research team led by Prof. SUN Yele from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences analyzed six-year aerosol particle composition measurements to investigate responses of air quality to the changes in anthropogenic emissions during the COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing, China, as well as the Chinese New Year holiday effects on air pollution.

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Air pollution changes in primary aerosols, gaseous precursors, and secondary aerosols during the COVID-19 outbreak and Chinese New Year holiday.
Changes in primary aerosols, gaseous precursors, and secondary aerosols during the COVID-19 outbreak and the Chinese New Year holiday. (Image: via Li Hao)

Air pollution during COVID-19

They found that air pollution during the COVID-19 lockdown was mainly due to different chemical responses of primary and secondary aerosols to changes in anthropogenic emissions. Prof. SUN said:

The air quality in Beijing has improved during the last decade, and the mass concentrations of both primary and secondary pollutants decreased considerably. However, according to this new study published in Science of The Total Environment, the increased sulfur and nitrogen oxidation capacity have suppressed the effects of emission reductions due to enhanced secondary formation.

These findings highlight a great challenge for mitigating secondary air pollution in regions with a cocktail of high concentrations of gaseous precursors. Prof. SUN said:

Provided by: Chinese Academy of Sciences [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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