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DEEP: Air pollutant levels in CT significantly decreased during first month of pandemic


(WTNH) — The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) said the air in the Nutmeg State became a bit fresher the first month the coronavirus pandemic took over our everyday lives.

According to preliminary data from DEEP’s Bureau of Air Management, many levels of the monitored air pollutants in our state have dropped significantly from mid-March to mid-April of 2020.

NASA satellite data shows nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels across the I-95 corridor from Washington D.C. to Boston decreased by 30 percent during March when compared to mean levels for March from 2015-2019.

Between March 14 – April 26, 2020, DEEP found through its analysis of ambient air monitoring data in CT:

  • Nitrogen dioxide levels (NO2) were between 13-37% lower than the average monitored values for the previous three-year period;
  • Carbon monoxide levels (CO) were between 7-21% lower than the average monitored values for the previous three-year period;
  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2) levels were 0-57% lower than the average monitored values for the previous three-year period;
  • Black carbon (BC) levels were 23-34% lower than the average monitored values for the previous three-year period;
  • Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) data did not indicate a pattern of reduction; and
  • Ozone (O3 or ‘smog’) levels were unchanged as ozone production is highly temperature dependent and is not produced at levels that impact human health until temperatures are regularly 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

DEEP said the lower levels came from a decrease in both transportation and commercial facility operations while Governor Lamont’s stay-at-home policies were in place. Normal seasonal factors contributed to the decrease as well.

DEEP says some of Connecticut’s poor air quality stems from its several congested highways. Typically, transportation in Connecticut is responsible for 38.1 percent of economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions and more than 66 percent of nitrogen oxides, which contributes to smog and other hazardous air pollutants, according to DEEP.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America even ranks New Haven and Hartford in the top 20 of 100 U.S. cities where it is the most challenging to live with asthma.

DEEP emphasizes that temporary stay-at-home restrictions are not a solution to eliminating air pollution or climate change. Instead, they suggest introducing long term strategies to reduce air pollution, such as implementing stricter emission standards for all vehicles and reducing car emissions through decarbonization.

The State of Connecticut and DEEP hope to reduce greenhouse gas levels in the state by 45 and 80 percent below 2001 levels by 2030 and 2050. Governor Lamont hopes Connecticut’s electric grid will be carbon-free by 2040.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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