Pollution levels in China had a significant decline between January and February, which would be related to the economic slowdown caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country, according to NASA.
Satellite images released by the US space agency show decreasing levels of nitrogen dioxide since the beginning of the year, which started in the Wuhan region and spread across the country.
This gas is emitted by power plants, combustion vehicles and industrial facilities, and can cause breathing problems.
An unprecedented event
According to NASA, the decrease in air pollution levels coincided with restrictions imposed on industrial and transport activities, as a measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 3,000 people worldwide – 2.9 thousand of which were in China.
Normally, pollution levels decrease when factories close during Chinese New Year celebrations, but not as much as they are now.
The air quality researcher at the agency Fei Liu spoke about the recorded data: “It is the first time I have seen such a dramatic fall in such a wide area caused by a specific event,” he told the agency’s website.
Comparison with previous years
NASA has measured nitrogen dioxide pollution globally since 2004 and according to the agency, figures for early 2020 are significantly lower (10% to 30%) in China than was normally observed at the same time, in previous years.
In 2008, for example, there was also a significant reduction during the Beijing Olympic Games, but the event occurred only in the vicinity of the city and the levels of the pollutant increased again as soon as the event ended.
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Also, according to Liu, “this year the rate of reduction is more significant than in previous years and it lasted longer”, partly because of the coronavirus.