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No Substantial Change In Air Quality During Covid-19

A small team of researchers from Copenhagen University measured the air quality during closedown. They expected a great improvement in air quality, but it was not substantial. A second study, however, showed that you could benefit from planning when and where you bike.

When PhD fellow Marie Bergmann takes her bike to work, she does think about when to go and which route to take. But she also took part in two studies at the Section of Environmental Health at  Copenhagen University dealing with air pollution.

Marie Bergmann is collocating the air quality monitor at the HCAB air quality monitoring station, to see how the monitor used for the walking and bicycling studies compares to the city monitor

One study, where she biked a 8.5 kilometer route through the city center and major commuting streets at 8 in the morning, then at 10 and again at 16 in the afternoon (60 times all together) was made to find out, if there was a lower exposure, when you bike outside of rush hours. The study, conducted between September and October last year, was funded by Copenhagen Municipality. It showed that choice of route is more important than the time of the day. It is about getting away from intersections, heavy traffic and narrow streets, if you want the best air quality when biking. There was, however, no significant difference in air quality at the three different time slots.

The Covid study was done a bit earlier – from late-March to mid-July 2020 – and her colleague Postdoc Tom Cole-Hunter was the biker then. 40 times he measured the air quality during closedown and expected that the low activity would provide better air quality. But there was no significant difference when the numbers were corrected for weather data. In this study, the weather counted for 46% of the explanation for better air quality, so the weather actually changed the air pollution more than traffic.

“Generally, the benefits to your health outweigh the risk of air pollution when you bike in a relatively unpolluted city like Copenhagen. But if you have health issues such as asthma you could consult your doctor and think of reducing the exposure by choosing a less trafficked route,” says Tom Cole-Hunter.

According to a 2018-study, 66% of people living in Copenhagen says that clean air is very important for the attractiveness of a city.

Marie Bergmann is continuing her PhD looking into the so-called Google model for air pollution.

“I am looking into the short- and long-term health effects of ultrafine particles. There is not much knowledge about them, as they are harder to measure than larger particles and not regulated,” says Marie Bergmann.

See more here

Get the full Covid-19 study here