the COVID-19 pandemic and atmospheric pollution

Katelyn DeAnthony and Dr. Derek Straub, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Susquehanna University, 514 University Ave, Selinsgrove PA 17870

Air pollution is the collection of substances in the atmosphere that is harmful to the health of the environment and humans. The six air pollutants that have ambient national standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency are particulate matter, lead, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected air quality in terms of NO2 and particulate matter as identified in previous studies, which was likely due to major disruptions in human behavior. A world-wide pandemic is a unique situation that can provide insight on how changes in human-related activity affects air quality. The objective of this study is to use this unusual event to expand our understanding of air pollution. 

Previous studies have found that air quality has improved during the early months of the pandemic; however, it is not yet known whether the atmospheric pollution concentrations have returned back to typical values as the pandemic has progressed. In this study, we show how air quality has changed since the beginning of the pandemic by looking at criteria pollutant concentrations in urban and rural locations across the U.S. over an extended period of time during the pandemic. Those concentrations were compared to the pre-COVID concentrations and concentrations averaged from 2016-2019 for the COVID-time period. We acquired the air pollution measurements through the EPA’s AirNow database. Consistent with previous studies, we found that the levels of pollution have decreased in urban locations, specifically for NO2 and particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter. Additional statistical analysis will be used to quantify the magnitude of the decreases. Further analysis will be performed to determine the impact of the pandemic on concentrations of NO2 and PM2.5 in rural locations as well as the impact on other criteria pollutants in urban and rural locations. 

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Katelyn DeAnthony

Institution: Susquehanna University

Type: Poster

Subject: Environmental Science & Sustainability

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 6
Date/Time: Tue 2:00pm-3:00pm
Session Number: 4669